“Heritage, Not Hate”? Ask Medgar Evers

byron-de-la-beckwith-confederate-flag-2011-11-2-16-52-33On this day in 1963 Medgar Evers was assassinated. His murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, is shown here in front of his Mississippi home in 1990. Click here for some incredible photographs of Medgar Evers on the civil rights trail and following his death.

As for this photograph, it should give you some idea as to why reasonable Americans (both black and white) have little patience for the public display of the Confederate flag. Petty chants and bumper stickers announcing “Heritage, Not Hate” do nothing to erase the history of this banner.

Just ask Medgar Evers.

19 comments… add one

  • Ken Noe Jun 12, 2013

    Beckwith also wore a battle flag pin in his lapel throughout his 1994 trial. Then there’s this: http://tinyurl.com/mpyw3qj

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Jun 12, 2013

      Looks like the flag Beckwith pledged allegiance to was not the flag of the United States of America. That being the case, I wish the court that finally sentenced him would have stripped him of his United States citizenship.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jun 12, 2013

    I think Beckwith’s slogan was “Hate, not heritage.”

  • Chuck Jun 12, 2013

    Public display of the Confederate flag is much less evident now than in 1978 when we first moved to upstate South Carolina, for a high school history teaching position I might add. Still, whenever I see it displayed–be it on a car’s bumper or window, on a t-shirt or hat, or on a pole in someone’s yard–I get quite angry. I have a difficult time controlling that particular emotion in that particular situation.

  • Brad Jun 12, 2013

    And to think that the 15th Amendment to the Consitution was ratified in 1870.

  • Mike from Ottawa Jun 12, 2013

    If I saw a CBF-related bumper sticker with “Heritage, Not Hate” I’d be inclined to cross out “, Not” and write in “of”. If folk don’t like that, they should take it up with the folk like de la Beckwith.

    • Andy Hall Jun 12, 2013

      The Confederate Heritage folks long ago settled on a comfortable, self-assuring position that the use of the Confederate flag as a symbol of segregation, racial intimidation and intolerance has been limited to a few rancid extremists like de la Beckwith, who’ve tarnished the reputation of the “Southern Cross.” They’re lying.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 12, 2013

        I never tire watching folks rationalize away the history of the Confederate flag in the 1950s and 60s. History means absolutely nothing to these people, though I am convinced that they are fast becoming an irrelevant minority.

  • Forester Jun 12, 2013

    Devil’s advocate, this is the TWENTIETH CENTURY history of the CBF. Using a symbol in bad ways later doesn’t necessarily tarnish what it originally was. 1950s/60s use of the flag is interesting, but irrelevant to the flag’s Civil War connotations.

    The real debate will always be over the Civil War and what the actual Confederacy stood for, not how it’s banners were used later. If someone started an international charity aid group with the CBF as a symbol, turning it into a 21st century symbol of mercy and amnesty, would you overlook it’s 1950s history? Probably not, and that’s how the Heritage folks feel about the CBF’s bad reputation in the modern day.

    Again, just Devil’s Advocate. I actually agree that it’s mean to display the flag on public buildings, but I think I understand what the Heritage crowd is feeling here.

    • Brooks D. Simpson Jun 13, 2013

      The battle flag is not the flag of the Confederacy. What I find interesting is the confusion over this issue. There are other flags to fly, and one might first be specific as to what one is honoring …. because to honor the Confederacy, one would fly the First, Second, or Third National Flag, while there are more appropriate banners than the navy jack to remember Confederate soldiers.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 13, 2013

        Absolutely, but as you know those other flags are not identified with the Confederacy. So the heritage community must adopt the only flag that the public knows, which will be forever connected with “massive resistance” regardless of whether Connie and other acknowledges it. The problem is not that it was used by extremist groups, but that it was adopted by state governments to fly atop their statehouses and it was carried by ordinary white Americans during the 1950s and 60s.

  • Mike from Ottawa Jun 13, 2013

    “Using a symbol in bad ways later doesn’t necessarily tarnish what it originally was.”

    It was originally the flag of the army of a country founded upon the believe in the inferiority of black people and enshrining their subjugation. Is that actually something that can be further tarnished?

    • Andy Hall Jun 13, 2013

      The “Southern Cross” holds its place steadily in the Southern heart. It was in every mouth long before the war began; it remains in spite of all arguments against it. These arguments are ridiculous. First, we don’t see the Southern Cross in the heavens. Indeed! Do the British see the lion and the unicorn on the land or in the sea? Do the Austrians behold the double headed eagle anywhere in nature or out of it? What has seeing got to do with it? The truth is, we shall see the Southern Cross ere the destiny of the Southern master and his African slave is accomplished. That destiny does not stop short of the banks of the Amazon. The world of wonders in the animal and vegetable kingdom, of riches incalculable in the vast domain, watered by that gigantic stream, is the natural heritage of the Southron and his domestic slave. They alone can achieve its conquest and lay its untold wealth a tribute at the feet of commerce, the Queen consort of King Cotton.

      —— George William Bagby, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, praising the then-new design of the Confederate Battle Flag.

  • Amy Jun 13, 2013

    I guess in the PNW the flag represents “rural culture”.

    http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20090117/NEWS01/701179775

  • Connie Chastain Jun 13, 2013

    This is the oft-used tactic of focusing on a negative segment and palming it off as the whole. To inject a little reality … I grew up in that era, in central Alabama, and I know that support for segregation was not the same thing as support for murder. Most people in the South did not march to support segregation, and despite misgivings of what could result (some of which has materialized over the decades), and even initial resistance, most white Southerners accepted it. In any case, a huge majority of Southern heritage advocates today do not display and honor the Confederate flag as a symbol of segregation.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 13, 2013

      This is the oft-used tactic of focusing on a negative segment and palming it off as the whole.

      Please point to any post where I have suggested such a thing.

      I grew up in that era, in central Alabama, and I know that support for segregation was not the same thing as support for murder.

      Nothing along those lines is suggested in this post. What I find interesting is the length heritage folks will go to suggest that the Confederate flag has no connection with racism and violence. Even a cursory glance at the relevant history suggests that this is so and it points to why many Americans (both black and white) have little tolerance for it. As always I suggest reading John Coski’s excellent history of the Confederate flag.

      In any case, a huge majority of Southern heritage advocates today do not display and honor the Confederate flag as a symbol of segregation.

      It doesn’t matter why Southern heritage advocates fly it as long as they pretend that they somehow have a monopoly on its meaning. The fact is that the flag has a sordid past, which is why it is less and less tolerated in public places. You are on the losing side of this one.

      • Connie Chastain Jun 14, 2013

        You don’t have to suggest it; you can just do it. In this post, you’ve done it with the title. Focusing on Beckwith and the flag — the negative partial or segment — and using the term “Heritage, not hate,” is smearing the entire Southern heritage community, but especially the SCV, which coined the phrase in the early 1990s, I believe (I’m awaiting verification of the identity of the actual person who coined it, and an accurate date) — thirty freakin’ years after the Evers murder.

        The post is focusing on that one incident and by using the SCV’s phrase in the title, it is an insinuation that the SCV membership is somehow associated or affiliated with Beckwith, or share in his beliefs. In the twenty years or so since the phrase was coined, it has come to be used by heritage advocates in general, so the title to this blog post is a smear of all heritage folks by insinuating a linkage or similarity to Beckwith.

        People who look at the photo of Beckwith and the flag and say that’s why they have no patience for public displays of the flag are refusing to look at the tens of thousands of people and instances throughout the past when the flag was not used in that manner. (Granted, the powers-that-be — education, the media, the popular culture — aren’t going to dig positive portrayals out of their archives; their thing is to show only the negative.) How reasonable is that? There are sordid things — really sordid things — soiling the US. flag, and the United States itself but we don’t totally define the country or its flag by them.

        You also focused on a negative and portrayed it as the whole in this comment thread:
        http://cwmemory.com/2011/07/31/the-influence-of-roots-on-the-black-confederate-myth/

        It’s not just you, though. That approach is pervasive in discussions of the flag, the Confederacy, the South….

        Yes, Andy’s comment timestamped June 12, 2013 at 10:52 am hinted broadly and strongly of a connection between flag-flying segregation supporters and flag-flying racist murderers — a connection he claims heritage folks comfortably ignore. I think that’s not an accurate way of viewing it, but since Mr. Hall is unwilling to converse with me, I’ll let it go by.

        As for people who go to great lengths to suggest the flag has no connection with racism and violence, I believe there are far fewer of them than critics think. There are some, and they may look like a lot, if they’re the only people you focus on. Or if you include people who don’t suggest that, but you construe what they say in that manner. Most people I’m aware of don’t make such a suggestion — they just don’t focus on the negatives, like you and your fellow travelers.

        The flag is less tolerated in public places because it has been the subject of a deliberate smear campaign for several decades. It isn’t surprising that people are going to have little tolerance for it — particularly if they just swallow the pop-culture level of the smear and don’t try to look any deeper. That’s the whole point of the smear campaign, after all — to create automatic rejection of the flag.

        If I’m on the losing side, it’s because the “winning” side is playing dishonestly.

        Yes, it does matter why Southern heritage advocates fly it. If they don’t have a monopoly on the meaning then, voila, neither do you or anyone else, although anti-flag folks are the ones attempting to dictate what is allowed regarding the flag and what is not. For example, the Virginia Flaggers are pushing to have the flag flown from places historically or otherwise connected to it — the Chapel at the VMGA, the MOC at Appomattox. They’re not flagging to have the banners put up at the bus station or Starbucks or nail salons…. Most anti-flag folks would ban it from public view, anywhere — stick it in a draw in a museum basement somewhere.

        Kevin, the people you are watching are remembering different things about the history of the flag in the 50s and 60s than you are. I know the flag was used by some to symbolize resistance to integration. You think that should totally define it and justify its disappearance. Because of what else it symbolizes, I disagree. Ordinary white Americans — at least, Southern ones — carried the flag in the 50s and 60s for a variety of reason, such as cheering on a high school or college football team or their favorite race car driver. Yes, that isn’t exactly honoring the soldiers, but those usages stem from its becoming a symbol of the South, and regional pride. But that sort of display cannot possibly be construed as football and racing fans wanting civil rights activists to be murdered. The refusal of some to even acknowledge that people had other, positive reasons for carrying or displaying the flag during that era — how honest is that?

        • Kevin Levin Jun 14, 2013

          Connie,

          First, I was not aware that the SCV coined the phrase. Regardless, I suspect that the phrase has been utilized by people beyond the SCV. I stand by the post. It would be a mistake to lump everyone who has ever flown a Confederate flag in with Beckwith, but I would argue that it is no accident that Beckwith closely identified with the Confederate flag. Indeed, it is no accident why many ordinary white Southerners embraced the Confederate flag as a symbol of “massive resistance” in the 1950s and 60s. Some of those people may have stood by as black and white Americans marched for civil rights while others may have engaged in varying acts of violence. Finally, it is also no accident that individual states chose to fly the Confederate flag or incorporate it into their state flags at that time. We are simply not going to agree on the history here and like I said I believe you are ultimately on the losing side of this issue.

          The flag was originally utilized by the military arm of a nation that was founded to protect and extend slavery. Again, I suspect we will have to agree to disagree. I don’t believe that anyone has a monopoly on the meaning of the Confederate flag. I’ve maintained all along that where and whether it is displayed is up to the people in local communities to decide. You and others are free to fly it on your private property if you so choose.

  • Mike from Ottawa Jun 15, 2013

    “… using the term “Heritage, not hate,” is smearing the entire Southern heritage community, but especially the SCV …”

    The SCV, if http://www.scv.org/ is their website, are self-smearing with stuff like the whitewash “The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.” If they wanted to honour those who fought for freedom and liberty, they’d be welcoming into their ranks the descendents of the southerners, white and especially black, who fought for freedom and liberty by fighting in the Union army. Their very nature and name make the SCV a Confederate heritage, not “Southern heritage” organization, unless you wish to say Confederate Southern. And then you can’t complain at all about the ignominy attached to the CBF. Afterall, the Confederacy was a project founded on belief in the irredeemable inferiority of black people and their permanent subjugation by white people. The CBF is a symbol of that despicable project. That decent men beguiled by patriotism and lies about freedom and liberty, lies the SCV peddles to this day, fough to realize that project is a tragedy, but their tragedy does not redeem the cause or its symbols.

    If you choose as a symbol of ‘Southern heritage’ a flag that stood for the rightness of racism and slavery rather than, say a pecan pie (mmm pecan pie), then you voluntarily taking on the issues that defined that flag in its time and that folk have associated it with ever since. Let’s recall, that a white man could get away with murdering a black man, who was only seeking the freedom and liberty the SCV prate about, in Mississippi because black people were kept off juries and that was within my lifetime.

    If you want to be about “Southern heritage” not including the heritage of hate the CBF symbolizes, choose a symbol of Southern heritage and not just of white Southern heritage.

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