The Confederate battle flag remains one of our nation’s most controversial symbols. But what is the real history behind it? Is it wholly a racist symbol? Read on to find out what the leftist media isn’t telling you about the Confederate Flag.
Let’s begin with a little history—the Confederate Flag we know of today (also known as the Dixie Flag or the Southern Cross) was the flag that, during the American Civil War, represented the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee. The flags of each unit in the Confederate Army normally represented soldier comradery rather than Southern nationalism.
Now let’s set something straight for the leftists—Robert E. Lee did not own a single African slave in his lifetime. In fact, Lee was quoted for calling African slavery an “evil institution” and criticizing it as a political and moral evil in his letter to the New York Times. When Lee’s home state of Virginia declared secession in April 1861, Lee chose to follow the secession, despite the fact that he desired for the Union to remain intact. After the war, Lee supported the 13th Amendment (which called for the extinction of slavery) and actually opposed the construction of Confederate memorial monuments. Lee rejected a continual insurgency against the United States and called for reconciliation between the Union and the Confederacy.
Lee was a bulldog. In the first years of the Civil War he was practically undefeated. He was famous for his prowess in battle and aggressive tactics. His most notable quality however was that he never surrendered—so why did Lee surrender to the Union and give up the Southern cause? Because Lee was tired of the killing. He did not want to see more lives lost on both sides over the evil that was African slavery. Lee realized that the preservation of the Union and Southern (as well as Northern lives) was more important than the preservation of African slavery.
So, why all the hate for General Lee in modern times? Because the Civil War has been constantly taught for the past century as a battle between good and evil. There was no good and evil in the Civil War. We forget that a lot of people in the South were drafted into the Confederate Army (this included African slaves) sometimes unwillingly. We tend to forget that there were many in the South who opposed secession and slavery, like Robert E. Lee.
Let’s not let the North off the hook so easily either. Although slavery in the North had been abolished since the early 1800s, free blacks were still very much discriminated against. In addition, there were still many discriminatory policies at play before and after Reconstruction, such as blacks still not having the right to vote or become citizens, and the implementation of the Black Codes during the white-supremacist reign of Andrew Johnson.
It is also important to note that General Lee’s flag (the modern day Confederate Flag) is a totally different object from the flag of The Confederate States of America, led by Jefferson Davis. Jefferson Davis was a self-proclaimed racist and white supremacist, unlike Lee. We have to disconnect the individual from the group.
General Lee had his flaws, too. Although he believed in the extermination of slavery, he did not believe in giving blacks the right to vote, due to the fact that they “lacked the mental capacity to do so.” But why is Lee treated differently from all historical figures? Many great figures in our history believed in this idea as well: our very own Founding Fathers did. Take Martin Luther King Jr., for example; he believed that homosexuality was a sin. Should we take his statue down then? Should we change institutions named after him? What about our founding fathers? Do we erase our history for the sake of political correctness? All are hard questions to answer.
Just because famous people in United States history said and believed in these things doesn’t make it right at all whatsoever. I do not condone their beliefs by any means. However, if we are going to define General Lee as a racist, wouldn’t we have to define Martin Luther King Jr. as a homophobe, and George Washington as merely just a brutal slave owner? Beliefs such as these were common during many periods of time in our history. Does it discredit their brave and courageous actions as well as sacrifices for our country? I’ll let the reader decide.
The Confederate Flag is considered racist and a symbol of white supremacy due to its heavy association with the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. In many alt-right rallies, it will be seeing flying beside the Nazi Swastika. However, the usage of the Confederate Flag to represent white supremacy and southern nationalism was not familiar until the birth of the Second Ku Klux Klan in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The original symbol of the Klan was actually the American flag, until the Klan decided that it wanted nothing to do with the United States since the country’s position on integrating recently freed blacks into society was “too pacifist” for them. The Klan embraced the ideology of the “Lost Cause”, believing that one day, the South would rise again and regain victory against the Union. Thus, the white race would rule the United States until the end of eternity, and blacks would remain at the bottom of the pyramid as always intended.
In that case, should we define the American flag as “racist” and a symbol of white supremacy due to its brief association with the Klan? Some would argue that we should. We’re missing one important concept, though—the meaning of symbols can be twisted to fit the wicked interpretations and ideologies of absolutely vile individuals. There was a long period of time where the American flag stood for the discrimination against blacks and the genocide of Native Americans, contrary to what the symbol of the flag actually means for many Americans today. The American flag stands for liberty, justice for all, and sacrifice—not persecution. Take the Christian Cross, for instance. Think of all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christianity—the Spanish Inquisition, Christopher Columbus’s genocide of the Native Americans, the Crusades, and Pogroms against Jews in Russia. None of this defines Christianity. It is the complete opposite of Jesus Christ’s message of loving your enemies and treating others the way you would want to be treated. So, I ask, should we abolish the Cross now because of its association with these atrocities? No, that’d be absurd. It’s not what the Cross stands for.
Symbols are defined by how you use them. There’s a big difference between waving the Confederate Flag for the sake of Southern pride and waving it for the sake of white supremacy. There’s a big difference between worshipping the cross for the sake of Jesus’s message of love and for the sake of Christian supremacy over other religions.
I am a proud supporter of Israel. The Israeli flag stands for Judaism, hope, sacrifice, and a longing for Jerusalem. Now think about if I were to take that flag and declare Jewish and Israeli supremacy over other peoples—and call to murder anyone who wasn’t classified as such—all in the name of the Israeli flag. That’s twisting a good symbol and turning it into something truly horrific and disgusting. This is something that can be done with any symbol, be it a Confederate Flag, American flag, Israeli flag, Mexican flag, the list goes on.
There is no doubt that the Confederate Flag was originally linked to racism and white supremacy. It would be ignorant to deny that. However, it would also be ignorant to deny that the Confederate Flag serves as a cultural totem in many parts of the South and as a symbol of pride for many Southerners.
*Fact: Some black southerners, although a small group, do support flying the Confederate Flag. Many blacks “worked” and served the South in the Civil War as cooks and the people who picked up the bodies. The exact percentage of African Americans in the South that support the flag is unknown, and such cases are extremely rare.*
It’s ignorant to assume that anyone who ever had a Confederate Flag in their room or flew one on their truck is some kind of raging racist that wants to murder African Americans. It’s suggesting that people are racist without knowing them. I have met people who proudly fly the Confederate Flag in their room who have never exhibited the slightest hint of white supremacy (even to me, a Jew.) The solution is not to to be so quick to label those who fly the Confederate Flag as racists, but to ask questions. We’re missing a lot of that in today’s society. If the Confederate Flag is offensive to you and you personally know someone who flies it proudly, don’t hesitate to ask a question. You can state your feelings on the flag, but you should also ask the person what the flag means to them before jumping to conclusions.
I can acknowledge the pain and disgust many people rightfully feel when they look upon the Confederate Flag, and we may never figure out whether it is a racist symbol or a symbol of southern pride. It shouldn’t fly over our statehouses, but by all means, individuals should be allowed to fly the flag—whether others like it or not, it’s their first amendment right to do so. But, I implore my fellow millennials to learn history properly before we jump to conclusions on ANY group of people. People have their beliefs for their own reasons, and we have the freedom to choose whether we agree with them or not. That’s what makes the United States great. Have dialogue. Learn from others. If you don’t agree, you move on with your life. It’s not the end of the world.
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Elliot Avigael is a contributor and editor at theDailyLead.