Should We Still Associate Racism With Confederate Heritage?

The following clip was pulled from a recent NEH panel on the legacy of emancipation.  It included Ed Ayers, Gary Gallagher, Christy Coleman, Eric Foner, and Thavolia Glymph.  I highly recommend viewing the entire session if you have the time, but for now check out this short clip from the Q&A.  In it an African-American student asks if we should still associate racism with Confederate heritage.  I am not surprised that Christy Coleman, president of the American Civil War Center, decided to respond and she does so in a very fair and balanced manner.  Coleman’s response reflects both the difficulties of her position as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy and someone who has listened closely to visitors hailing from very different backgrounds.  Yeah, count me as a fan of Christy Coleman.

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13 comments… add one

  • Scott A. MacKenzie Oct 28, 2012

    I answer yes, but we must also tie the Union’s memory with racism too. It was the Nineteenth Century after all. White supremacy ruled over all – in the United States, Canada, Europe and her various colonies in Asia and Africa.

  • Gregg Jones Oct 28, 2012

    I feel this was a biased presentation. There was only one view presented. All of the panel had the same view. Each agreed with each other. Should We Still Assoicate Racism With Confederate Heritage? This is not a sincere question when only one view was presented. I feel as the title should have been ” We Assoicate Racism With Confederate Heritage opposing views are not welcomed.”

    • J. L. Bell Oct 28, 2012

      Actually, this was a panel on the legacy of emancipation, as the description above states. The question from the audience couldn’t have been anticipated, making it even more absurd to demand that the panel should have included multiple views on that question.

    • Andy Hall Oct 28, 2012

      The “bias” of the panel is that they’re all historians of long experience — both academic historians and (in the case of Ms. Coleman) public historians. Their bias is that they know this history of the flag, both how it was used in 1861-65, and how it has been used right down to the present. The flag comes will ALL of that baggage; to say it’s only about this but never about that is to willfully ignore or dismiss the real-life experience of others.

      I think her answer was pretty much pitch-perfect, particularly her points that (1) the historian can understand where a feeling or belief comes from without happening to agree with it, and (2) that one must draw a distinction between national and military goals, and the (many different) things that motivated the individual soldier on either side. Those distinctions must also apply to the way one approaches the Confederate flag. She makes it clear that she understands where Southerners are coming from when they insist that for them, it’s simply about “heritage.” But she also insists — quite rightly — that they in turn need to acknowledge that other Americans have have good reason to see that flag as representing something entirely different.

    • Pat Young Oct 28, 2012

      The question seemed sincere.

      The panel’s bias may have been, as Foner pointed out, that only one panelist was not from the old Confederacy. Perhaps a less Southern panel might have answered differently.

      • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2012

        Foner is not southern and Gallagher grew up in Colorado. The only southerner that I know of on that panel is Ayers, who is from Tennessee.

        • Pat Young Oct 28, 2012

          Christy Coleman, and Thavolia Glymph are both Southerners, I believe, and I think that Foner was implying that Gallegher had lived there long enough.

  • Bummer Oct 28, 2012

    I admire Andy Hall’s calm analysis and reflection on the common southern excuse of heritage and honor. Being politically correct, Ms. Coleman, does have a tough job. However, my life experience and study, proves that racism is a part of the history of southern mentality, the flag of the Confederacy is a part of that legacy and to not acknowledge that fact is unacceptable. All southerners are not racist, but the fact still remains that the mindset of the few impacts an overall impression.
    Andy Hall impresses me with his aplomb, honor and insight. It is always a pleasure to review his posts and comments.

    Bummer

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2012

      I value Andy’s contributions as well.

      What exactly is “politically correct” about Coleman’s comments as opposed to a set of beliefs based on her personal experience?

      • Bummer Oct 28, 2012

        I felt Ms. Coleman’s position at the American Civil War Center is one of enormous responsibility and any responses to the public, need to balance not only personal experience with a degree of political diplomacy.

        Bummer

        • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2012

          I appreciate the response, but that doesn’t really answer my question. Which belief expressed do you believe was framed as “political diplomacy?” That said, I certainly agree with you that her position does require a careful hand in certain situations, but as far as I can tell what Coleman expressed here are sincerely held beliefs.

  • Bummer Oct 28, 2012

    Kevin,
    I am not debating the fact that Ms. Coleman’s beliefs are not sincere. What I am refering to is her position, as you stated, “as a black woman running a Civil War museum in the former capital of the Confederacy”. A daunting task to say the least.
    I don’t believe that any of Ms Coleman’s comments were “framed” as political diplomacy. My own feeling is that no matter how you call it, Ms. Coleman is up for the task.

    Bummer

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2012

      My fault. I misread your previous comment. Thanks for the clarification.

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