What the Protest at Washington & Lee University is Really About
Yes, the people who gathered in Lexington, Virginia are incensed about the removal of replica Confederate flags from Lee Chapel. They view it as a threat to their preferred narrative of the history of the Confederacy and the symbolism of the flag both during and after the war. The fact that the replicas will be replaced by original flags appears to have been lost by just about everyone. It suggests to me that this is not entirely about the removal of flags, but about who instigated it.
This is about the fact that it was a group of African-American students who successfully petitioned their school to acknowledge their interpretation of the Confederate flag. It is a reminder that African Americans will never subscribe to their preferred interpretation of this history and its iconography.
The Confederate heritage movement has gone to great lengths in recent years to shape their stories to appeal to African Americans and other minorities. This butchering of the Lost Cause narrative likely goes beyond what most Confederates themselves would acknowledge as a realistic depiction of their cause. The rise of the black Confederate narrative in the 1970s is the most obvious example of this revisionist agenda.
In the end groups like the Virginia Flaggers can highlight their black member and post all of the photographs of black passers-by on the Boulevard they want on their websites. The SCV can schedule an unlimited number of appearances with H.K. Edgerton. The racial profile of the students is a reminder that this project has largely been a failure.