Tag Archives: Confederate Flag

Whose Confederate Heritage?

This story out of Haywood County, North Carolina about the display of the Confederate flag on public ground is perfect for helping us to move beyond the popular narratives of North v. South and black v. white.  It’s a fairly straightforward story:

For years, David Crook had been making monthly rounds past the Confederate Memorial on the lawn of the historic courthouse and tucking a tiny flag into the ground at its base. And for years, an anonymous person who felt the flag carried negative symbolism had been pulling them up.  “They kept disappearing,” said Thomas Shepard, whose own ancestors fought for the South. “So we kept replacing them.”  The flag tug-of-war gradually ramped up, with a new one being put down and pulled up almost daily.  The county was forced to wade into the fray in June, when a local attorney complained about the tiny flag display and asked the county to intervene.

County officials decided to remove the flags for good and this enraged those who see the flag as central to their understanding of the Southern/Confederate past.  What I find interesting is the way in which this debate has been framed by the local newspaper.  They refer to flag advocates as “Confederate supporters” but this tells us very little about the wide range of views held by white Southerners re: their past.

Despite the heated emotions on display in the comments section of the article no one in this dispute has a monopoly on Confederate heritage.  It turns out that not all (perhaps not even a majority) of white Southerners have a deep need to see the Confederate flag on public property.  This does not imply that they hate their past or are ashamed of it in any way.  It doesn’t even necessarily imply that they have a problem with the Confederate flag.  Are we really going to argue that the UDC has turned its back on standing up for a meaningful Confederate past simply because it refuses to press the issue on the Confederate flag?  The UDC is the organization responsible for placing the marker on courthouse grounds in 1940.  Does anyone else not see the UDC as the last line of defense against the trivialization of the Confederate flag by its so-called “supporters.”  It must be upsetting to some that they can’t frame this debate along racial lines or even as a legacy of those meddling carpetbaggers.  Even H.K. Edgerton and his fancy t-shirts seem just a little out of place here.

This is just another example of why extreme flag advocates have become gradually more marginalized in the South.  It’s not because they are victims or because they are being discriminated against or even because others will not learn their history.  Their mistake is in their assumption that the flag means the same thing to all people (even white Southerners) and that it is indispensable to maintaining a meaningful connection to the past.

What the SCV’s Defeat in Lexington Means

I suspect that the Confederate flag story out of Lexington will go viral by the end of the day.  No doubt, we will be treated to the standard mainstream media narrative of an unfinished Civil War as well as the overly defensive posture of the SCV.  Already we’ve heard from Brandon Dorsey, who is the local SCV commander in Lexington:

As far as I am concerned, this is little different that some states shutting down all their public schools to avoid desegregation and then claiming their motivation for closing them is of no concern because they screwed over everyone.

Oh brother.  Pass the hyperbole.  The SCV and other heritage groups have staked everything on the display of the Confederate flag.  It’s all or nothing.  Any attempt at limiting its visibility is seen as an attack on their history and heritage as if they alone have a monopoly on the Southern past.

The days when the Confederate flag represented a people, a culture, and a history are over.  Thankfully, we now live in a time when an ever wider spectrum of voices are able to make their voices heard and they are adamant that the flag ought not to be displayed on public property and/or supported with taxpayer dollars.  Why?  Because of its history and nothing the SCV or anyone else says or does can change the flag’s symbolic connection to a history of violence and racism.  I suspect that most reasonable people would agree that there are settings in which its display is appropriate and even necessary, but that is a discussion the SCV will not consider.

This has nothing to do with hating the South or “evilizing” the Confederacy.  That is as unimaginative an argument as one can make and as we have seen it will lead to the SCV’s continued marginalization in society.  The SCV’s decision to stake everything on the flag reflects a simplistic understanding of the very history and heritage that they claim to defend.  Instead of wasting limited resources on court cases, television ads, and airplane banners they should be thinking of creative ways to share the rich history of the Confederacy and their ancestors in their local communities.

When it comes to the Confederate flag the SCV is doomed to fail and they deserve everything they get.

Sons of Confederate Veterans Lose in Lexington

This just in:

A legal battle to fly the Confederate flag from the street light poles of Lexington died today at the hand of a federal judge.  In a written opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Wilson dismissed a lawsuit against the city filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.  The lawsuit challenged an ordinance, passed last year amid public furor, that limited the types of flags that can be flown from city-owned light poles.  Lexington City Council’s decision to fly only the city, state and national flags was “eminently reasonable,” Wilson wrote in a 10-page opinion released late today.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans had claimed that the city abused their free speech rights — banning the battle flag because of its controversial nature.  But in granting the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Wilson wrote that the city’s alleged motivations do not override the fact that the ordinance is content-neutral on its face.  By allowing only flags that represent government to be displayed on its light poles, the city essentially banned all private displays, including not just the Sons of Confederate Veterans but also two universities and several fraternities that have previously been allowed access to the poles.  For that reason, the city argued, the ordinance did not shun a particular cause and thus was not subject to First Amendment attack.  Wilson agreed, writing that to allow “a city-owned flag pole to serve as a public forum could suggest that government has placed its imprimatur on private expression.”

Another View of the Virginia Flaggers

Accompanying text:

This video was taken yesterday outside of an establishment created to foster understanding, creativity and yes…expression. However type of expression has many negative and absolutely hateful associations and should not be tolerated. Young people don’t forget why this should not be tolerated! As for the black woman in the video…yes, the one who is proudly waving the flag…..of all examples to set….why this one?? The choice to do something in public is a choice that only you can make….but please, help me understand why you needed to wave THAT flag in public!!??