A constant refrain heard over the past week is that the Confederate battle flag is a revered symbol for the descendants of the men who fought under it between 1861 and 1865. If so, for how many descendants? The Sons of Confederate Veterans certainly embrace the spirit of this claim. According to Wikipedia membership in the Sons of Confederate Veterans numbered just over 29,000 in 2014 – an incredibly small number by any estimation. Certainly, one does not have to be a member of the SCV to claim a strong ancestral connection with an ancestor who fought. Perhaps there are many more outside of the SCV who identify the flag with a Confederate ancestor. Perhaps that number is far outstripped by descendants of Confederate soldiers who have never given their ancestor much thought at all.
But what exactly are we acknowledging when the Confederate flag is embraced by a descendant of a soldier who fought and to what extent ought the rest of us acknowledge this as a legitimate interpretation of the flag’s meaning? The embrace of the flag by descendants of Confederate soldiers usually comes with claims about the bravery and steadfastness of their ancestor as well as vague claims about the defense of home and family.
I don’t mean to belittle such beliefs, but there is a problem. Continue reading →