Is This Image Really Controversial?

“In school (in Venezuela) we learned about the United States’ Civil War and slavery. I learned to have a negative view of the flag — I basically associated the image of the flag with slavery, racism and the KKK…. In 1983, I was a college student in Texas and saw a group of KKK clansmen in their hooded robes, standing on a street corner yelling and waving the (Confederate) flag. My English was limited at the time, so I’m not sure what they were yelling, but I probably wouldn’t want to know.  It only happened once in the 12 years that I lived there, but that image stuck with me.” — Stanley Bermudez

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131 comments… add one
  • Malcolm x Jul 25, 2014 @ 0:41

    It’s crazy the same group that has that nasty image in your head and many others has a website being negative but trying to make it sound positive its sickening that America lets this happen.

    • Malcolm x Jul 25, 2014 @ 0:45

      Btw the picture is cool. I actually had a bad experience with this flag as well im only 21

  • Sherree Feb 8, 2011 @ 9:55


    I know you closed the comments on this thread, and I understand why. I would just like to add a little humor to the end of the discussion, if you decide to post this comment.

    I assumed that Mr. Renko was Russian because of his name. Thus, I was angry at him–as a Russian–for what happened to my Russian and Hungarian friends who defected in the 1970s–as if that would have been his fault had he, in fact, been Russian, or if, in fact, he is Russian. Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us. (I am still wondering if Ivan Ivanovich Renko is a name I should know, but don’t) Thanks, as always, for the effort you make, Kevin. I actually think that this conversation was productive. Sherree

    • Edwin Thompson Feb 8, 2011 @ 12:34

      Mr. Renko is a cool guy – See attached as to where he got the name Ivan Ivanovich. We are all test dummies – lol

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 8, 2011 @ 13:03

        I think I would want to allow Mr Renko say where he got his name. It is not impossible that it is his birth name. The fact that the Space Project used the equivalent of “John Doe” for their test dummy does not prove that Mr Renko got it from there.

        • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 8, 2011 @ 15:46

          Actually, it’s a Russification of my American, English name and what would be my patronymic.

          My meatspace first name is John, and yes, my father’s name was also John (tho I’m not a junior). There just was no proper translation of my last name, so I stole it from Arkady Renko, the detective from Gorky Park.

          Add a bad comic-opera Russian accent (“We will capture moose and squirrel, Fearless Leader…”) and there I am.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 8, 2011 @ 15:55

            Love it. Rocky and Bullwinkle were my favorites when I was small.

            • Sherree Feb 9, 2011 @ 0:32

              Arleigh, meet Ivan and Edwin. Edwin and Ivan meet Arleigh. Now, maybe you can have a conversation without too much testosterone flying around, lol.

              Here is a thought from a Cherokee Elder to start the day off:

              “No individual or group can block another individual’s path or change it against what fits his nature and his purpose. It might be done for a time, but in the end it won’t work out.”

              Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

              Can’t we all agree that the purpose and path of African American men and women were both cruelly waylaid by what Professor Gates called one of the most “heinous crimes” in history and work together to overcome that legacy? Professor Gates did not blame any one group of people, but indicted the entire world. However, each group, and sub group, that share this history and that helped to perpetrate this crime must step up to the plate. That is actually what I see beginning to happen here. Thanks to all of you, and especially to our host, Kevin. “до свидания” (Good, bye in Russian, I think…..)

  • Sherree Feb 6, 2011 @ 5:05


    Thank you for hosting this discussion. It has been very educational. The artist has created a powerful piece of art. In addition, the differing perspectives offered by readers once again suggests why it is important to have scholars involved in this ongoing discussion so that the relevant history is addressed.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 8:01

    As I said the first time it was mentioned, I immediately ordered a copy of Coski’s book from Amazon. It may arrive today or tomorrow. Right now I an trying to finish “The Fairest Portion of the Globe” by Frances Hunter. It is an historical fiction about the Genet Affair featuring Andre Michaux, George Rogers Clark, Anthony Wayne, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark. Yes, I realize it is fiction, but the two sisters who wrote it seem to have done a good job researching for their novel. The role of Michaux in the whole thing seems plausible.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 8:54

      I mentioned the book once again for the benefit of everyone who has contributed or followed this thread.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:49

    I would think that a person who puts on a Nazi uniform and carries a Nazi flag FOR THE PURPOSE OF A RE-ENACTMENT OF WWII BATTLES is doing a public service. Re-enactors do not necessarily share the motivations and beliefs of those whom they portray. Neither does an attorney who defends a member of the Aryan Nations who has been charged with horrible atrocities. I would hate to live in a land where my enemies do not have the same protection under the law as I enjoy.

    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 4, 2011 @ 8:27

      This isn’t about the right to dress as one wishes; this isn’t even about reenactments.

      This is about reverence for the Confederacy and it’s primary (modern) symbol, the Confederate Battle Flag. This is about those who go on and on about the nobility of their ancestors who fought for FREEDOM!

      Sure, they have the right, this is, at least for the moment, still a “free” country. But there is no getting around the fact that the “lost cause” was one of pure, unmitigated evil– AT LEAST as much as that of the Third Reich; and I would argue far more.

      • Sherree Feb 5, 2011 @ 5:50

        Ivan Ivanovich,

        Slavery was evil. The Third Reich was also evil. I am sure that you would agree that Stalin and his henchmen were evil. Or, that Soviet domination of eastern Europe was evil. (I have a friend of three decades who was a child when Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, as he tells it. ) My point is that the tendency–and even the need–to see the actions of another group of people removed from yourself as evil, can become a cathartic experience with little value in the end. Unless you, yourself, are African American, you are assuming suffering that is not yours to assume. I notice that African American contributors to this blog do not create such divisive emotional responses. Perhaps that is because the arguments of those contributors are reasoned and sound, and most importantly, justified, since we are talking about African American history and the suffering of African American men, women, and children. This is not about white men and women–or it should not be.

        • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 5, 2011 @ 8:17

          Simply put- I am an African American man, born in the South in 1957.

          I was raised on the mythos of the Lost Cause; as were we all who where educated in that section in that time. I have had more than one discussion with people who hold some reverence for the Confederacy, people who claim that the secession of the southern states was about “state’s rights,” “economics,” and my very favorite, “FREEDOM!”

          It takes but a moments perusal of the traitors’ secessionists’ own documents at the time to put the lie to that particular myth. Their position, in their own words, was “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.”

          Here is the thing, Sherree– I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone (other than the local Nazis and other “out-and-proud” white supramacists) want to wear, show, or in any other way venerate the symbols of the Third Reich. I’m pretty certain that I’ve never seen anyone ever claim a love for Stalin’s Communist Russia.

          Why? In my less generous moments, I believe it’s because the victims of those regimes were white. Their suffering is recognized as having been real, legitimate, honest… and the victims are respected by not venerating the symbols of the murderous regimes.

          When I’m feeling more generous, I put it down to the Lost Cause mythos that we were raised on; the “nobility” of the Southron cause.

          Regardless. The Confederate Battle Flag is and will always be the symbol of men who took up arms to defend their right to own other men (and women, whose suffering adds another dimension to the evil perpetrated).

          • Sherree Feb 5, 2011 @ 8:46


            I stand corrected, and how. (I am smiling with a heartfelt smile) NOW, I agree with you. Now, I understand. Does that make sense? Had you been a white guy, I would not feel the same. I also agree that there is a component of race involved in deciding which evil is more evil.

            I live in the south, too–the Deep South. Last year a neighbor put up a big flag with a swastika on it in his workshop. (This man was from the north, btw) I was astonished. I am still not certain why and how that happened. But since my husband is Jewish and our neighborhood is integrated, it concerned me greatly. Luckily the guy moved.

          • Edwin Thompson Feb 5, 2011 @ 10:17

            Ivan – I agree with you. What ultimately makes the American Civil War unique is that so many white men put their lives in danger to defend the institution of slavery – a type of slavery that only included people of African decent. The confederate flag should be retired to attics and museums as a reminder.

            I’m looking forward to reading Kevin’s book “Murder Remembered As War: The Battle of the Crater”. The title is interesting – it may shed some light on the feelings of Confederate soldiers toward black American’s. Perhaps those feelings were not much different than those felt by Nazi’s as they murdered German Jews.

            • Sherree Feb 5, 2011 @ 12:42


              As if on cue to prove my point. Ivan, The best of luck to you in all that you do.

            • Richard Feb 6, 2011 @ 17:40

              “What ultimately makes the American Civil War unique is that so many white men put their lives in danger to defend the institution of slavery. ”

              I have thought alot about that question lately, were my people from NC fighting to protect slavery, were my people from Maine fighting to end slavery? In my view they were all just poor-ass white folks who gave up their lives. Caught up in the whirlwind. We are the ones who have fought in all of your wars.

              • Arleigh Birchler Feb 6, 2011 @ 18:19

                That is about it. From my point of view there is no greater insult that can be made about soldiers who died in a war then to say they died for someones cause. They were killed by war, not by some abstract idea.

                • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 4:56

                  People always fight wars for a reason or a cause. If not, they are mercenaries. The historical documentation is very clear; the Civil War was fought over slavery. The fight over slavery was brewing from the initial birth of our nation.

                  A few days ago, the NYTimes did a Disunion article on Mark Twain. Twain’s views on slavery changed as he matured. One comment was:

                  “The ambiguity of Mark Twain should not be surprising. He was after all raised in the slave state of Missouri, and like most everyone it is probable that he initially identified with the people and customs of his youth. As he traveled and gained a broader life experience, his views clearly changed. Which is why, for a serious education, it is important for young adults to leave home, go off to college, and see the world. Otherwise they are apt to remain little more than a collection of their home town prejudices”.

                  So yes, it was a whirlwind, but there was a reason behind the whirlwind. And sadly, protecting the right to enslave people because of their skin color was the reason.

                  As the song goes – John Brown’s body lies a-mold’ring in the grave, His soul goes marching on!!!!

                  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 7, 2011 @ 12:37

                    Mr Thompson,

                    Perhaps you are a decorated veteran, or even a career soldier, but it is difficult for me to believe that anyone who has ever served in the military does not know the difference between a soldier in the trenches and the politicians in top government posts.

                    I personally hold John Brown responsible for much of the suffering of both my Abolitionist ancestors living near Lawrence, Kansas, and my Confederate ancestors living in Cass County, Missouri. John Brown was a war monger. War and killing were far more important to him then the rights of any person, black, brown, white, yellow, purple, green, or any of the other misnomers we use for skin color.

                    • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:53

                      One last post Kevin

                      Back to the topic Mr. Birchler: Concerning how African Americans feel about the Confederate Flag, please see Mr. Renko’s comments below. He is “bone of the bone and flesh of the flesh”.

                      Concerning me – I am not a soldier, nor veteran. As for my family, yes – we have military people. They were not drafted. If you were, then that is difficult. God bless.

                      Concerning John Brown: He was a great American. He was not a traitor such as Benedict Arnold or Robert Lee. But we will discuss traitors and Arlington Cemetery on another post.

                  • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 16:51

                    No Mr Thompson,

                    The “War” was not about slavery. A few states, what – 4? – used slavery as a main reason for secession.
                    Secession is not war. The “War” was to force the seceeding states of a voluntary union back into the said union at the point of bayonette and loss of 620,000 American lives. Even less than 8 months before his death Lincoln stated as much.

                    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:17

                      I’m sorry, Mr. Bearden, but this is absolutely, completely incorrect. Slavery formed the cornerstone upon which the Confederacy built it’s nation and it’s society.

                      You are perpetrating a lie. The founders of the Confederacy, in their secession documents, said that slavery was the reason for secession.

                  • Richard Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:10

                    “People always fight wars for a reason or a cause. If not, they are mercenaries.”
                    Interesting statement. My GG grandfather in NC joined the Union Army. Reason: They paid more money.

                  • Richard Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:24

                    “So yes, it was a whirlwind, but there was a reason behind the whirlwind. And sadly, protecting the right to enslave people because of their skin color was the reason. ”

                    I have grown up in the south and have known the root cause of the war was slavery as long as I can remember. What amazes me is that people seem to have just discovered that in the last 20 years.

                    You had three choices when the war started in Eastern NC, join the Confederate Army, join the Union Army if you could make it to their lines, or hide in the swamps.

      • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 6:43

        Mr Renko,
        You seem to hold a fetish for the 3rd Reich. Your comparisons attempting to link 1861-65 CSA and 1930-40s Nazism are non starters.

        We all agree that slavery – then and now – is wrong, but it was a way of life back then, and a state right.
        The Confederacy did not invent the practice, nor at the time of war was it limited to the south. Slavery got its legal foothold in America courtesy of Anthony Johnson and John Casor in 1655.

        Slavery is/was bad, but a more logical comparison would be between the extermination of Jews
        in Nazi Germany and the extermination of Native Americans and unborn babies in the United States.

        • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 13:02

          “We all agree that slavery – then and now – is wrong, but it was a way of life back then, and a state right. It was a way of life.”

          It was also a way of death. Death from being chained in the bowels of slave ships; death from being overworked and underfed; death from bearing massa’s children (who were to become light-skinned slaves themselves); death was imposed on slaves daily.

          I love the way you minimize the imposition of death; the theft of millions of man-hours of back breaking labor; the rape of slave women who were forced to give birth TO MORE SLAVES. To you and to people like you, the slaves weren’t people; they’re just… “slaves.” Or, probably more accurately, you’d say they were just “niggers.” In any case, you have absolutely no empathy for their suffering; in fact, you are probably one of those inconceivably ignorant– willfully ignorant Southrons who will go to any length to justify the Treason in Defense of Slavery.

          The Confederates took up arms to maintain their right to own other human beings– human beings, Mr. Bearden, among whom were my own ancestors. You want to deny the humanity of their victims; and I understand that. White supremacy depends on denying the humanity of non-white people; and you can’t be a proper white supremacist if you believe that black people are people.

          You want to minimize the traitors’ crimes, but that does not change the fact that they were indeed they were indeed crimes against humanity.

          Anyone who reveres these murderous criminals deserve nothing more than contempt, exactly the same way as do the more “out and proud” white supremacists, like the Aryan Nations or the Aryan Brotherhood– you know, the other people who love your wretched flag? The white supremacists who actually have the stones to say what they believe outright?

          You deny the humanity of my ancestors, you deny my humanity. Therefore, it’s war to the knife, Mr. Bearden.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 7, 2011 @ 13:22

            Would you prefer the Mr Bearden denied that fact that slavery existed, or that it was sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States? Would you prefer that we overlook the fact that in order to become an independent nation anti-slavery folks had to compromise with slave owners? The past is what it is. Issueing threats like “it’s war to the knife” does not change history. Where my ancestors lived the motto was : “War to the Knife, and the Knife to the Hilt.” You may want to return to that savage way of life. I do not.

            Some time when we have more time let’s talk about the village of Kossumbugu, and the people I met there.

            • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 16:17

              It is not a threat, Mr. Birchler; it is a description of the current state of affairs.

              The Confederates, calling themselves “conservatives,” took up arms to defend their right to own other people. Mr. Birchler, your comments indicate that you have a strong sympathy for the “dogfaces,” the “line animals-” the privates and the sergeants and the junior officers at the tip of the spear. I suspect that’s because you fundamentally understand Sherman’s dictum, “War is hell.” In my own thinking I, “No one comes home from war unwounded.”

              Is there a more important question ever before a nation than when and why to take up arms and march to war?

              Just think about that for a moment. If we may agree that the enslavement of anyone is fundamentally immoral, then the willingness to take up arms in the service of immorality must surely be a greater crime.

              It is precisely because I understand that “war is hell,” and the fact that the Confederates, in their own words, went to war for the express purpose of defending their right to own other people that I see them as criminals and monsters. Their victims were my ancestors, and that makes it personal.

              From that day to this, the adherents the ideology of the Confederacy have fought against accepting black people as being simplyfellow citizens. From immediately post Reconstruction to the tumult of the mid-20th century civil rights movement, to their latest generation’s insistence that a man born in Hawaii is not a citizen of the United States; the ideological heirs of the Confederacy have twisted that knife.

              I say war to the knife because that’s exactly what it is; and what it always has been.

          • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:30

            Mr. Renko – In his 2nd inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln said: “Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”

            These words are chiseled into the Lincoln Memorial. Americans, both northern and southern paid with their blood for the pain we inflicted on African Americans. And we paid a low price for our deeds as pointed out by President Lincoln. Slavery was a horrible stain on the American culture, but we have shown, however slowly, that we can change and learn. Why anyone would remember this civil war with pride is not something I understand.

            • Arleigh Birchler Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:35

              Nor I. It was one of the most horrible times in our history, for all people. But there were plenty of other horrors, both before and after.

              • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:39

                I I think all of you have made your points. Perhaps it’s time to end this thread.

                • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:49

                  It was just getting to be fun! Come on – a few more posts.

                  • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:51

                    Go for it if you think it’s really necessary.

          • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 15:28

            All peoples thruout history have had some terrible wrong done to them at one point in history. Blacks do not corner the market on pain and suffering or death. I would estimate nearly a billion people have been exterminated since the end of American slavery in 1865 till now, and probably double that before 1861.

            We can certainly get upset that people do not jump thru politically correct approved methods of contrition, such as apologizing for slavery. But war to the knife? Me calling blacks “niggers”? Whatever …

            It was in March of 1998 when President Bill Clinton went to Uganda Africa to offer up an apology for American slavery. Ugandan President Museveni came to Clinton’s aid, saying he blamed “black traitors” more than white Europeans for the 17th and 18th century trade in African people, according to a British Broadcasting Co. (BBC) report.

            “African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other and capturing their own people and selling them” Museveni said. “If anyone should apologize, it should be the African chiefs. We still have those traitors here even today.”

            Those aryans you speak of, while seen with an occaisional Confederate flag, are seen with far more US flags, but they are a small insignificant group who only gains thru intimidation factor, like the klan.

            I have no antagonism towards you.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 6:28


    I forwarded your message to Bob. Perhaps he will come to this site and post a response. He and I and a few friends have put on our Confederate uniforms to protest KKK rallies being held on War Between the States Battlefields. I sent Kevin a few photos from various newspapers.

    There are one or two other Afro-Americans who have gained national attention by wearing Confederate uniforms and carrying the Confederate battle flag. We could spend all day arguing their motivation, but that is of little interest to me. The extent to which the image is historically accurate is also a point for debate. I have heard the arguments from both sides. Everyone has their own valid points. No one can see all sides of anything.

    • Josh Jasper Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:03

      Everyone has their own valid points. No one can see all sides of anything.

      What does “valid” even mean in this context? Were the great mass murderers of history operating from a “valid” viewpoint? How about the KKK, when they were lynching black people for being accused of lust towards white women, or mouthing off, or what have you?

      Seriously? You expect me to care if these monsters thought they had a “valid” viewpoint? Newsflash – I don’t, nor will I. You can go around bemoaning the lack or respect I give people like Randall Terry and Tim McVeigh. I’ll be happier with them out of the picture, and anyone who espouses what they did as “valid” considered a potential terrorist.

      See what considering that “Everyone has their own valid points.”? I’m sure you don’t want to defend terrorism, but that’s what claiming that “Everyone has their own valid points.” gets you. Words have consequences, and yours are that I’m thinking of you as someone who’s not really concerned enough to think through the implications of yours.

      Try harder.

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 6, 2011 @ 5:41


        If you read my message you will see that my comment was in reference to whether or not 21th century Afro-Americans wearing Confederate Uniforms is historically accurate. It has nothing to do with the litany of horrors you give voice to. This sort of generalized attack on those who you perceive as your enemy does little for your image, or your cause.

    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:33

      War Between the States. Well, at least you don’t call it “The War of Northern Aggression.”

      I hate to Godwin the thread, but seriously– what would you think of someone who honors and reveres the Third Reich? Who holds up the NSDAP flag as a symbol of all the honorable German soldiers “who only fought to defend their homeland?”

      The Confederates, in their own words, committed their treason for almost the sole reason of protection and supporting the institution of slavery. I really cannot see how reverence for that act becomes a “valid point.”

      • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 6:25

        Mr Renko,
        I’m calling your bluff.
        The exact quote by any leader of the Confederate Govt that states that very sentiment.
        Who What When Where?

        • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 12:45

          We’ll just go to the Articles of Secession for the State of Mississippi:

          “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.”

          • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:17

            Mr Renko
            “The Confederates, in their own words, committed their treason …”

            Mr Bearden
            “The exact quote by any leader of the Confederate Govt that states that very sentiment”

            Mr Renko
            “We’ll just go to the Articles of Secession for the State of Mississippi”

            Still waiting on any statements that the CSA leadership admitted to any ‘treason’

            • Arleigh Birchler Feb 7, 2011 @ 14:23

              Mr Renko
              “The Confederates, in their own words, committed their treason …”

              Mr Bearden
              “Still waiting on any statements that the CSA leadership admitted to any ‘treason’”

              As good an example of miscommunication as any I have seen latey.

              • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:10

                I took it as self evident that taking up arms against the United States of America was treason, by definition. Confederate apologists refer to it as “The War Between the States,” or “The War of Northern Aggression.”

                I call it Treason in Defense of Slavery (TiDoS).

                • Billy Bearden Feb 8, 2011 @ 7:11

                  Mr Renko

                  Treason is a word tossed around in such discussions like hand grenades, exactly like your nazi references. They cause shock and bring flames, but hold no truth and serve no logical purpose but to distract from actual dialogue.

                  If there was treason, surely Jefferson Davis would have swung from the gallows. The US Govt ran away from ever being serious about a trial. The closest the Federal Govt ever came was the kangaroo court that railroaded Wirz.

                  The United States Congress, according to your illogical reasoning, is a “Confederate Apologist” for it was they who issued a Congressional Gold Medal to the last 4 Veterans of the War Between the States, and on said medal was the term “War Between the States”

                  • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2011 @ 7:35

                    This is the final comment on this thread. You guys are not adding anything new to the discussion and you are talking passed one another. Thanks for your participation, but this has gone on long enough.

                    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 8, 2011 @ 8:12

                      Mr. Levin, thank you for hosting this discussion; I hope I have not made myself too unwelcome. I am not an ACW scholar; my interest was only recently piqued in the conflict thanks to the efforts of your other commenter Andy Hall and also Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic.

                      That said, I would have loved to have heard from Mr. Bearden how is it that the what the Confederates did was not treason; and I would really love to hear how the acts of the Nazis were, in fact, less than those of the Confederates.

                    • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2011 @ 8:13

                      I appreciate the comment, but it just seems like this discussion has run its course. Feel free to comment in the future.

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 5:51


    I am not speaking about the image, or “Confederate Flags”. I am only looking at your statement: “Since when did art have to be historically accurate?”

    Art never has to be historically accurate. When it is not historically accurate and it is used to convince others of your view of the world, it is called “propaganda”. I think that it is the use of historically inaccurate images for purposes of propaganda to support one’s own political agenda that is objectionable.

    I am a strong supporter of President Obama (although I do not agree with everything he says.) I find the current leadership of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to be very objectionable. I mostly think that images from the War Between the States should never be used to support any twenty-first century political cause. The most powerful statement that President Obama could make right now is to honor Southern Heritage and those who promote Southern Heritage. It is the heritage of a great many Afro and Euro-Americans.

    Reconciliation is never easy, and seldom involves being dogmatic.

  • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:32

    Giving him the back of my hand? Noting that his art is not historically accurate is giving him the back of my hand? How melodramatic. I’ve acknowledged that art does not have to be truthful.

    Do you view criticism of anything you agree with as whining?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:36

      Since when did art have to be historically accurate? The artist is making a broader point and he does so quite effectively using a symbol that over the course of the twentieth century has been closely linked to racial violence.

      • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:54

        Art doesn’t have to be historically accurate any more than it has to be truthful. However, there’s nothing that says I can’t point it out when it is historically inaccurate and untruthful. I think it’s insightful regarding the artist’s motive. You say he’s making a broader point. I say he’s being politically correct at the expense of truth and accuracy. So it goes….

        Over the course of the twentieth century, the U.S. flag was more closely linked to racial violence (19th century, too). You yourself stated the CBF was dormant before WWII — which means it was dormant for most of the first half of the 20th century. The era of lynching was virtually over by the time the CBF came out of its dormancy.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 5:37

          You said: “Art doesn’t have to be historically accurate any more than it has to be truthful.”

          Well, it clearly is his truth and that’s what matters here. No doubt, his message resonates with millions of Americans who experienced the Confederate flag in a racially charge environment.

          • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 6:04

            Well, I think our back-and-forth has answered your original question, “Is this image really controversial?” Encarta defines controversial as, “causing argument: provoking strong disagreement or disapproval, e.g. in public debate. So, yeah, the image really is controversial.

            • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 6:14

              What I meant to suggest, however, is that the image does little more than confirm the fact that many people associate the Confederate flag with racism and violence. That’s part of our American history and the history of this particular symbol. That aspect of it is not controversial at all.

              • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 6:37

                And many people don’t associate the Confederate flag in that manner. Moreover, it is part of American history that many people associate the U.S. flag with racism and violence. So…. Potayto, potahto.

                • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:25

                  And that’s the point. We come at our understanding of certain images/symbols from a myriad of backgrounds.

              • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:07


                You are absolutely correct: many people associate the Confederate flag (Battle Flag) with racism and violence. The larger question is whether this association is historically accurate. You both seem to agree that the association has come into being since World War II, in the context of the Civil Rights movement, not before World War II in the context of lynching.

                The first seven Confederate states seceded from the Union because of the question of slavery and the Constitution. The motivation of the next four is a bit more complicated.

                My question for you is: “What purpose does it serve to further promote the association of the Confederate Battle Flag with racism and violence. How does doing so help the cause of reconciliation, and the end of racism and violence?”

                • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:27

                  I simply shared the most recent example of how our understanding of the Confederate flag continues to illicit strong emotional responses. I am not promoting the association of the Confederate flag with racism. That has already been taken care of throughout the twentieth century.

                  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:36

                    And in doing so you did a public service. It is something that should be discussed. I am often wrong, but it appears to me that in a few of your posts you have promoted the ideas and feelings implicit in the image.

                    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:40

                      You are free to assume what you will. The image draws a connection between racial violence and the Confederate flag. Even a cursory glance at our history suggests that this is uncontroversial. Again, I suggest that those interested in the history of the Confederate flag ought to read John Coski’s excellent book on the history of the Confederate flag. No one knows more about this than John.

  • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 3:50

    His personal experience is that he was indoctrinated at his schools in Venezuela and his one experience with the KKK did not involve lynching. So, he makes this “much broader statement” about this symbol — so broad it goes outside the boundaries of reality and truth.

    But, hey, I understand. Art doesn’t have to be truthful.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 3:55

      LOL… I guess it’s always convenient to dismiss someone you disagree with or fail to understand as being “indoctrinated.” I’ll have to give that a try at some point. 🙂

      • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:05

        Well, it is the first thing he admits in what you’ve posted here. And I don’t fail to understand him, far from it.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:07

          You understand by giving him the back of your hand and whining that he doesn’t view the world as you do.

  • Connie Chastain Feb 4, 2011 @ 2:53

    The artist’s rendition was based on his own experience? He saw klansmen lynching folks against a backdrop of the CBF… in 1983?

    The Tuskegee Institute has recorded 3,446 lynchings of Blacks and 1,297 lynchings of whites between 1882 and 1968. How many written accounts of those lynchings do you know of, Mr. Levin, that confirm the CBF was present? How many photos have you seen of lynchings with a CBF in the frame?

    Mr. Bermudez can do whatever he interprets to be art all he wishes, but people who know better ought not to pretend this represents reality.

    Mr. Hall, the CBF doesn’t need “rehabilitating” — at least, no more than the U.S. flag does.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 3:33


      I said it was based on his personal experience, which you can read for yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Confederate flag in a photograph of a lynching, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of this particular work of art. I think the artist is trying to make a much broader statement about this particular symbol. Again, you may not like it and it may not conform to your preferred view of it, but that is the nature of art and controversial symbols.

  • Connie Chastain Feb 3, 2011 @ 18:56

    Interesting, how the “historically accurate” folks meld into the woodwork when they don’t want to acknowledge, um, historical accuracy. Superimposing a lynching over the battle flag ignores the fact that the CBF was not in widespread use during the era when the most lynchings occurred. That would be the, ahem, U.S. flag. Indeed, the images superimposed on the CBF in this piece of, uh, art, would be far more appropriate superimposed over, um, Old Gory — I mean, Old Glory. But perhaps somebody from Venezuela wouldn’t necessarily know that….

    • Kevin Levin Feb 4, 2011 @ 1:59


      I recommend that you read John Coski’s book on the Confederate flag which you can easily get a hold of from Amazon. In fact, it was the period before WWII that the flag lay dormant in terms of its presence in popular culture. The artist’s rendition was based on his own experience. Isn’t that what art almost always reflects? You may not like it, but that doesn’t change it.

  • Bob Feb 3, 2011 @ 4:41

    you must remember, you are not the only one who posts their views on your blog, thus my comment about racism being widespread over the US in the 19th century was not aimed at you specifically…just at that particular common perception among the masses. The TEA party comment is relevant with me when it comes to cultural symbols., on July 4th I usually flew the Don’t Tread On Me Flag…this past year, my neighbor became really friendly to me due to the fact that he thought I was a TEA Partier…lol If I had only knew that is all it took to get Christmas cookies from them in the past!

    We all need to keep up the fight with wide assumptions, ignorance and stereotypes. Not all who fought under the stars and bars were donning a white hood after the war. Not all who fly the confederate flag today are racists….

    • Kevin Levin Feb 3, 2011 @ 5:31

      You didn’t direct your comment to anyone specifically, which is why I took the opportunity to clarify.

  • Bob Feb 3, 2011 @ 3:53

    @Kevin Levin February 1, 2011 at 5:43 am

    “My guess is that those “racist goons” adopted the Confederate flag because they understood its connection to a war that had something to do with maintaining the separation of the races.”

    Or they were and are just really ignorant? Many times in our history, groups of people hijack cultural symbols for their own political agenda….tons of examples of that today. I truly believe, a good portion of the population that displays the battleflag (even that description is not totally true) are people who are not racist or segregationists. Americans today are so visiually oriented and like things black and white, wet and dry….most dont like discussing the “gray” areas because it requires thought and information these days are given in most schools in a way that is easy (I blame the SOL’s personally…). I doubt most people would be offended by the Bonnie Blue Flag or First National flag. Why…ignorant racists just didn’t know any better, most people of the south during the war related mostly with the First National flag or their own state flag..

    Anyways, I myself do not find the flag offensive, the people waving it as a hate symbol are the offensive ones. MOST veterans from the South hung up their guns, and got along with peace and tried to rebuild. The massive resistance movement was not a result of CSA veterans resisting.

    Finally, please please lets not just say that the people in the South were pro-segregation. Most people in the North, including the recent immigrants working low end jobs were VERY much against free blacks moving north for their jobs and fought hard to keep them “segregated”. The point..the majority of the country, north and south, were racist at the end of the war – it wasn’t a “southern thing” as it became during massive resistance. (side note, oddly enough the Dept of Justice claims that the highest concentration of KKK active groups are in Indiana and Illinois…again, not something that is easy to interpret).

    Yes Kevin, I rambled a lot…no more checking the blog at 7am!

    • Kevin Levin Feb 3, 2011 @ 4:12

      You said: “Or they were and are just really ignorant?” Well, that would be the more comforting thought, but I think it’s a stretch. The symbolism of the Confederate flag was acknowledged by all classes in the South during the 1950s and 60s. I agree with you that the flag is now being used for any number of reasons and many of them have absolutely nothing to do with race. That doesn’t change the history or the way certain individuals and groups choose to view it in any way. It just means that symbols can take on multiple meanings at any given time.

      Finally, I have never suggested that the South had a monopoly on racism. Even a cursory glance through this blog reveals that much. It’s one of the toughest lessons that I have to convey to my students and I take that responsibility very seriously.

      • Billy Bearden Feb 5, 2011 @ 20:46

        Not too much of a stretch possibly. Back in the olden days, learning history was not as easy or with as much vast info as today. Had a 2011 person gone back to 1960 and said to a klansman:
        “The Confederate Battle Flag you plan on using includes among it’s many defenders blacks, hispanics, jews, catholics, episcopalians, protestants, athiests and foriegners, and here is the proof”
        I am sure they would have changed flag options, so yes, I believe the klan – for thier agenda – used the wrong symbol.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 6, 2011 @ 1:59

          Thanks for the comment, Billy. A trip back to 1960 would likely have led to a meeting with average Americans flying the Confederate flag in response to the civil rights movement. Once again, I highly recommend John Coski’s study of the Confederate flag.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 6, 2011 @ 5:55


            While I haven’t looked closely at the subject, I believe that you are right about the Battle Flag being displayed much more prominently during the time of the 1960 Civil Rights Movement. As such, those who displayed it then might bear much of the blame for the way it is viewed today.

            The art work that prompted this discussion, however, does not show Civil Rights Marches, Rosa Park, or Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. It contains images more closely connected to an earlier period. Had it contained Civil Rights Marches, or either of the two great people I mentioned above, I would have considered it a moving and appropriate picture. As is, it is mere hate-mongering. It celebrates hatred and intolerance, and promotes more of the same.

            If any of this makes any sense to you, I hope that in your “Black Confederate” web page you will stick to the facts and historical accuracy, and not use it as a forum to attack or belittle others who have created the less than honest web pages you dislike.

            • Kevin Levin Feb 6, 2011 @ 5:58

              Do you see me belittling others in my posts on black Confederates? If so, please point to an example. In many cases I have taken a very strong stance against certain folks, but I have always made it a point to provide what I believe to be reasonable criticisms. Perhaps you can explain what is prompting this comment.

              As for the image you are free to interpret it as you will.

              • Arleigh Birchler Feb 6, 2011 @ 6:09

                The fact that I suggest you do not do something in a future project does not mean that I think you have done so in the past. It is merely my attempt at honest advice.

                Thank you for pointing out my poor choice of wording. Perhaps you can mentally correct my message so that it is seen as encouraging advice from a friend, and not as an attack by an enemy.

                • Kevin Levin Feb 6, 2011 @ 6:11

                  No worries, Arleigh. It just struck me as an unusual comment. Your comments are much appreciated. 🙂

  • John Stones Feb 2, 2011 @ 5:41

    Earthtone is the only one among this group that retains the ability to practice common sense! You see the flag as a racist symbol simply because that’s what supports your version of history. You are a sad group, you have my sympathy and prayers that common sense returns to your midst.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 5:47

      Mr. Stones,

      You apparently did not read ET’s comment carefully enough. The issue is not whether I perceive the flag as a racist symbol, but whether the artist in question does. A quick tour of mid-20th century American history clearly shows that the flag was used as a symbol of “massive resistance” against the Civil Rights Movement. You seem to have trouble acknowledging the relevant history. For someone who constantly throws around words like “sympathy” and “prayer” you come off sounding like a pretty obnoxious and mean person.

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 2, 2011 @ 6:37

        Yes, the artist certainly does perceive the flag as a racist symbol.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:09

          Yes, and I think we would be hard pressed to suggest that this individual’s interpretation of the flag is mistaken given his experience and the broader history.

  • Andy Hall Feb 1, 2011 @ 15:55

    A question to ask is, how do you “rehabilitate” a symbol?

    If the Southron Heritage folks want to “rehabilitate” the Confederate Battle Flag, a good first step would be to acknowledge that others’ objections to it are based in real and ugly American history, as much (or more) of the 1960s as the 1860s. Chanting the mantra “heritage, not hate,” claiming that the racist connections to the flag are limited to small and extreme hate groups like the Klan (the “few bad apples” argument), and telling others that their objections are a reflection of their own ignorance ain’t gonna get it done.

    • Sherree Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:38

      LOL, Andy. Just lol.

      What more is there to say? (I linked to the site you referenced.)

      Of course the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. End of story. Anyone who lived through the 1960s KNOWS that.

      Arleigh does have a point, however. The American flag is considered a racist and oppressive symbol by many. (thus its trampling and burning throughout different parts of the world) Also, the KKK did use the American flag as well as the Confederate flag, so, the issue is more complex than the artist may know. And, average white Americans throughout the nation displayed racism in many different forms as they flew the American flag. Interesting, too, that the artist is from a country with a repressive government. How would he portray the flag of his country? Nevertheless, if it helps to see white southerners as the root of all evil, I see a calling there.

      My take on the Confederate flag is what I have stated here before–it represents years of misery and suffering for some very real African American men and women of an older generation not too far removed from slavery who are part of my family, and who include me as part of their family, so enough., enough, enough. Show some decency and retire that flag to a museum as has been suggested by some historians.

      (Kevin, I finally saw the enormous Confederate flag in eastern Tennessee this past December, and the sight of it literally knocked the wind out of me. My immediate thought was–how can this be happening again? Upon closer inspection, however, I believe that it is a mistake to think we are back in time and that it is the 1960s all over again. This is a very different time period, and the issues are much more complex. There are some very cynical people involved on all sides, it seems, and many are determined to control our perception of even fairly recent history. When I saw G. Gordon Liddy featured on a commercial in which Liddy asks the viewer to trust him to buy gold, I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. Maybe extremist members of the SCV should hire Liddy to show them how to really rehabilitate a damaged name and symbol…..

      G. Gordon Liddy saying, “trust me!”….revisionist history for certain–and at its finest)

      • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 9:55

        I agree. The flying of such a large Confederate flag suggests that the SCV and others are being sidelined. It’s an act of desperation.

        • Edwin Thompson Feb 2, 2011 @ 13:08

          Kevin – Thanks for posting the picture. All of the responses indicate that it is controversial. It expresses our inhumanity to one another. Mr. Hall asks how to rehabilitate a symbol? Well – the confederate flag can’t be rehabilitated. But let’s keep it around so we remember what we did – and teach that history to our kids.

  • EarthTone Feb 1, 2011 @ 12:31

    Is that image controversial? Heck, it’s en fuego!

    A question to ask is, how do you “rehabilitate” a symbol? The Southern heritage crowd and Confederate partisans all acknowledge that the flag has been co-opted by the KKK and other groups.

    What they want now is to de-couple the “hate” from the symbol and make it solely about heritage. Censorship of any controversial use of the symbol is thus essential.

    But of course for many, this is not about rehabilitating a symbol; it’s a visceral reaction to what they see as a slap at their culture and identity.

    A second question is, who’s going to stand up for free speech?

    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 3, 2011 @ 13:24

      Let us posit that the love of this flag is solely about “heritage,” not “hate.”

      Would we accept that reasoning if it were the flag of the Third Reich?

      • Billy Bearden Feb 7, 2011 @ 16:38

        Kevin Levin December 24, 2006 at 3:40 pm
        To all, — Let’s stay away from the Nazi references. These references are usually utilized as a means to bring out some kind of emotional reaction. As history they are almost useless. In short, it’s a non-starter.

        • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:06

          No, no, and no. If you don’t see any analogies from the crimes of the Third Reich and the Confederate States of America, then say so. Explain how going to war to defend owning other people is so different from going to war to simply kill people.

          Tell me how enslaving people is less heinous than simply murdering them outright. Tell me how the Third Reich’s use of slave labor was so much more heinous than the Confederacy’s.

          Once you’ve done that, then you can explain why wearing a swastika is today considered an obscenity but the Confederate Battle flag is not.

          • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:08

            This thread is now closed. Additional comments will now be deleted.

        • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:10

          It’s a starter. Walk by the 26th St. Armory in NYC; the 69th fought in a lot of Civil War battles – the battles are bodly chiseled into stone in hugh leters. They fought in the civil war and WWII. They were on the right side both times.

          • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:17

            Thanks Kevin – but this was fun. And this is nothing compared to what I saw or heard in the 1970’s. I even saw one of the original “sunset signs” in a small town in Tennessee. Talk about fear – it might as well have said – Yankee – don’t let the sun go down on your head here. It was actually in a store – not even hidden. The hate ran deep.

            • Kevin Levin Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:19

              I have no problem if you guys want to continue to argue back and forth about your preferred moral point of view. Just know that as far as I can tell no one is adding anything new to the conversation. it’s just back and forth, back and forth.

              • Edwin Thompson Feb 7, 2011 @ 17:28

                I’m out – thanks

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 5:35

    Folks wearing KKK garb waving a Battle Flag in Texas in 1983 is believable. That would be the begining of the latest of many incarnatins of the KKK, well after their 1930s to 1960s incarnation.

    It is the latter that gives us our image of the KKK. Those in 1983 were just clown trying to pretend to be the earlier folks for publicity. It is natural that they would carry the wrong flag. The Terrorist KKK of the 30s to 60 carried the United States Flag at all of their large rallies. It was part of their image of patriotism and civic duty. They were trying to portray themselves as one of the various Lion’s Clubs, Elks, etcetera.

    By the 50s and 60s it was a terrorist organization. Today it is a bunch of clowns. I have joined protests against it at the Sharpsburg and Gettysburg Battlefields. We usually get a lot more news coverage then they do. It is almost laughable to see them in their KKK and Nazi outfits. It is an outrage that they try to claim that they represent Southern Heritage.

    The ones that scare me are the folks at their rallies in business suits. They are the ones that look dangerous.

    • Andy Hall Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:48

      You shouldn’t limit the misuse of the Confederate Battle Flag as a racist symbol to the Klan — as Kevin notes above it was widely used from the late 1940s on across the South as a symbol of “massive resistance” to desegregation and the systematic dismantling of Jim Crow laws that had effectively maintained unbreakable white supremacy for over half a century. It would be easy to dismiss the racist overtones of the flag if it had only been used by groups like the Klan, but it wasn’t — it was a widespread symbol used by white Southerners to represent defiance explicitly on the subject of race, and was used by all sorts of “respectable” people, including the Citizens’ Councils, and the pre-integration University of Mississippi. As Kevin notes, it was in the context of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s that the flag began being flown again at Southern capitols. It was ubiquitous, and its intent was crystal clear. The Confederate Battle Flag has been used very explicitly across the South since World War II as a political, cultural, and racial statement; to ignore that, or ascribe it to a small fringe group is simply not correct.

      It’s been mentioned here many times, but I’d recommend John Coski’s book on the subject — it’s invaluable.

      • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:49

        If you are going to talk about the history of how the flag has been appropriated you have to read Coski’s book. Thanks for the comment, Andy.

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 7:20

        I just placed an order for Mr Coski’s book on Amazon.

        • Larry Cebula Feb 1, 2011 @ 7:42

          I don’t think that flag has been hijacked at all, the KKK and those who resisted integration were using it in the original manner, as a symbol for those who uphold white power and a racial caste system. That is what the flag meant in 1865 and is what it means today.

          • Lyle Smith Feb 1, 2011 @ 17:41

            The problem I have with this view is that the flag was created for the distinct purpose of being something different than the United States flag on the battlefield… not as a political symbol (albeit, one expressly created during a very political war). G.T. Beauregard arguably wasn’t thinking about “white power” at First Manassas when he was struck with the idea that his army needed some other flag to identify themselves at a distance. And it was never the flag of the Confederacy by itself.

            It’s “white power” symbolism didn’t really come about until the Jim Crow era, like in 1894 when Mississippi incorporated the battle flag into its State Flag. And as Andy Hall points out the flag became even more ubiquitous during the heyday of the anti-integration movements across the South from the 40s to the late 60s.

      • Paul Taylor Feb 1, 2011 @ 12:05

        Perhaps similar to the more modern statement of flying the Battle Flag on “R. E. Lee Day, ” which, not-so-coincidentally, is also MLK Day.



        • Billy Bearden Feb 6, 2011 @ 14:44

          Yes, Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee plotted and schemed to impregnate his wife at just exactly the right time to insure little Robert Edward was born precisely on January 19th so to create those issues here in the 21st century.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 6, 2011 @ 14:54

            Now, now Billy. Don’t confuse the issue with facts and logic. Stick to the feelings and emotions.

  • Dan Wright Feb 1, 2011 @ 5:14

    What Bermudez said about “the image stuck” sums it up.
    The connection of the Confederate flag with lynching, white supremacy and racial oppression sticks.
    That’s part of the heritage.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 5:42

      It’s actually a fairly tame image. There is absolutely nothing controversial about it at all if you understand the history of how the symbol has been used.

  • MississippiLawyer Feb 1, 2011 @ 5:10

    Guh, why did it have to be the battle flag that was adopted by all the racist goons?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 5:43

      My guess is that those “racist goons” adopted the Confederate flag because they understood its connection to a war that had something to do with maintaining the separation of the races.

      • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:14

        I probably have a problem with parallax, but it appears to me that the association of the Battle Flag with racist groups was not the work of the racist groups. I seldom see it in photographs of real racist groups. I see it used by other folks as an image to associate with racist groups. By defining the other, we proclaim that we are not like them, and do not share their guilt.

        • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:17

          You said: “I see it used by other folks as an image to associate with racist groups.” Take a look at photographs from the Civil Rights Movement and you will see ordinary Americans using the flag as a symbol of “massive resistance.” It was at this time that the flag was placed atop statehouses throughout the South. The point being that the symbol was used by ordinary Americans to stand up against changes taking place on the racial front.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:34

            You make a good point. Ordinary people misusing a symbol for what they want it to mean (or what they have been told that it means). What if they were using the Stars and Bars (First National Flag) instead of the Battle Flag? What would that symbolize? The Bonnie Blue? “Don’t Tread on Me”? The Betsy Ross Flag?

            What does it mean that the KKK flew the United States flag, or that the British Navy was unable to enforce the Internationl Ban of Slave Trade because it would not approach a ship flying the United States Flag after 1814? What does it mean that much of Boston Unitarian’s wealth came from the slave trade? What was William Ellery Channing really trying to tell them?

            (Incidentally, I am a Unitarian-Universalist, although I am a bit too liberal for most UUs.)

            • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 6:39

              Your claim that certain individuals and groups have misused this symbol assumes that there is a stable boundary around its true meaning. No one has a monopoly on how we appropriate cultural artifacts from the past. Think about all of the organizations that have used the Declaration of Independence to stake their claim to a piece of America. Is the Tea Party Movement misusing our Revolutionary heritage? In my view even to ask such a question is to miss the point entirely.

              • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 7:06

                Up to this point I have been calm, but now you have hit on a point that makes my blood boil.

                Yes, the Tea Party is grossly misusing our Revolutionary heritage. They represent the exact opposite of my ancestors who fought in that war. There actions are near treasonous, and I am not one who likes to use the word “treason”.

                The Tea Party is another incarnation of the Know Nothings who harrassed my pre-War Between the States Swiss ancestors. I remain a proud Whig, just like Abraham Lincoln.

                • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 7:09

                  There is absolutely no reason to get emotional about this. The Tea Party is one in a long line of political movements that have attached themselves to some aspect of the past to legitimize a specific position. The point is that there is no right or wrong. You may disapprove of the organization for any reason, but no one determines the conditions around which they choose to embrace the past. The same holds true with the Confederate flag.

                  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 7:29

                    They are misrepresenting a past that is very dear to me in order to hoodwink the people of this nation into buying their warped political agenda. Very little emotion is connected to the Confederate Flag. It is the Battle Flag that is also being misused for a 21st Century agenda. It has been reduced to a mere symbol with no thought about its actual history.

                    I use symbols a lot for abstract thinking. They are valuable. Misusing a symbol for an emotional reaction is appalling to me. People who get upset because someone burns the United States Flag totally miss the point. They have focused their emotions on the symbol, instead of using their minds to understand what the symbol represents. The reason I served in the United States Army was to protect the protestor’s right to burn the flag.

                    • Kevin Levin Feb 1, 2011 @ 8:06

                      I guess we have a different view of the nature of symbols. There is no right or wrong. Individuals and organizations are free to appropriate symbols in a way that advances their interests. It seems to me that all you are communicating is an emotional reaction.

                    • Arleigh Birchler Feb 1, 2011 @ 8:49


                      My emotion is not directed at you, or anyone on this list. It is directed against the Tea Party and all that it represents.

                      I disagree that people are “free” to appropriate symbols in a way that advances their interest. No disrespect intended, but I believe that that is what you are doing with this particular post.

                      People are “able” to appropriate symbols in a way that advances their interest, but if their interest is to subjugate and repress others, they will find that the others might take offense. I am sure that the first ammendment protection extends to Sarah Palin, but that does not mean I will let her twist history to help her and her friends get richer at the expense of the majority of our nation.

                      Using symbols to encourage hatred of a class of people because of the color of their skin, or where their ancestors came from, is easy. Getting past the symbols to see their real intent takes a lot more work.

                      Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream will never be realized until the SCV and the NAACP sit down together at the table of brotherhood. Using symbols to stir up hatred does nothing to advance that cause.

                    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 3, 2011 @ 13:22

                      Ummm, I’m afraid I will have to differ with you.

                      You do know, I’m sure, a black person or two– ask them what THEY think of the battle flag.

                      For myself, I hate the flag and it’s “heritage supporters” and the villainous, criminal traitors that originated it; I hate them with a passion that occasionally takes me by surprise.

                      So ask a black guy. I think you’ll find he has a more visceral reaction to it than you can.

                  • Ken Noe Feb 2, 2011 @ 13:14

                    Speaking of the Tea Party, I’m struck that Rand Paul used most of his maiden Senate speech yesterday to praise as his hero Kentucky abolitionist Cassius Clay.

                    • Arleigh Birchler Feb 3, 2011 @ 14:04


                      I know quite a few “black guys”, and their reaction to the flags varies greatly. Some have it hanging in their room, and others don Confederate uniforms for War Between the States reenactments. Every person is unique.

                    • Andy Hall Feb 3, 2011 @ 15:51

                      Paul’s been on an abolitionist kick for a while. Last year, shortly after he publicly said he’d have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (big gubmint overreach, you see), and caught hell for it, he published an op-ed in the Bowling Green paper in which he waxed eloquent about how much he’d always admired and sought to emulate “Frederick Douglas,” spelled with one S.

                    • Ivan Ivanovich Renko Feb 4, 2011 @ 4:35

                      Then please, Mr. Birchler, have one of these black guys you know– ONE of them– reply to this thread.

                      I find it very difficult to believe you know an African-American person who uses/wears/condones/reveres the Stars and Bars; but I am always willing to admit the possibility.

      • Reed Walters Feb 5, 2011 @ 18:04

        The Klan has used the U.S. Flag as well and the Christian flag. Do they represent racism?

        • Kevin Levin Feb 5, 2011 @ 18:08

          It doesn’t matter what I think. The meaning of symbols such as flags is determined by each individual.

          • Billy Bearden Feb 5, 2011 @ 20:08

            The Klan, established in 1866, immediately adopted the US Flag as it’s official standard, then later used the Bible, burning Cross, and unoficially began using the Confederate Battle Flag in the late 1950s.

            Those new to this situation – like Mr Stanley Bermudez, have been fed a steady diet of the “Klan and the Confederate Flag” to the exclusion of all else. Thus explaining his artwork.

            There is not a single picture anywhere in the known universe of a lynching victim, a klansman, and a Confederate Flag all together in 1 shot, but there are thousands of pictures of the klan, nooses and the US flag together.

            So, yes. The ‘artwork’ by Mr Bermudez is fantasy, a product of his imagination and the propaganda he has been fed by the PR arm of the left, and yes, it was designed to further hatred of those who respect the true meaning of the Confederate Flag.

            • Kevin Levin Feb 6, 2011 @ 2:00

              You may be right about the Confederate flag and the Klan, but this piece seems to be making a broader point about the racial connections associated with the Confederate flag and the Klan. Thanks again for the comment.

  • JMRudy Feb 1, 2011 @ 4:28

    I find it telling that the Gainesville Times preemptively closed commenting on the article…

    It’s a powerful piece of art. Personally, I’d love to have a print of that image, hanging in my cubicle at work as a conversation starter.

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