Apparently an LSU alum has suggested that its mascot descends from a Civil War brigade. An editorial from the Baton Rouge Advocate argues that it is time to move on, but in doing so offers an intriguing suggestion on how to appropriate Confederate symbols.
Whatever it was 150 years ago, it’s a Bengal tiger today. The times don’t allow the luxury of us fighting over a war our forefathers lost nearly 150 years ago. We have plenty to do right now in this region. The gallant sacrifices people made in the Civil War have been resolved, and we have a better society because of the way that war ended.
As for those offended by the Confederate flag, they, too, should move on. First, time has passed, and the symbol doesn’t mean the same thing to the vast majority as during the battles of the Civil War. Second, it wasn’t purple and gold in the context of the Confederacy. Finally, the best way to beat a symbol is not to banish it, but to incorporate it.
What would happen if African Americans appropriated the Confederate flag as their own? I don’t mean in the way that Southern Heritage groups use individual African Americans to help them make the weakest of historical arguments. Imagine organizations like the NAACP and other civil rights groups waving the flag and identifying with a Southern past (not necessarily a Confederate past). Let’s assume that the heritage folks are right and the flag simply represents fighting for one’s freedom. Why couldn’t African Americans wave the flag as a way to celebrate the large-scale movements of fugitives off the plantations and into Union lines as the armies penetrated further into the Deep South? Perhaps the best example in all of American history of a people pushing for freedom. The upshot would be to water down the flag’s meaning to a point where it no longer represented one race. What would heritage groups do? Could they simply stand by and watch this happen or would they argue that the flag’s meaning is racially specific?