Is This An Appropriate Use of the Confederate Flag?


Matthew Heimbach at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Susan Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers are Richmond’s self-described defenders of Confederate heritage. At the center of their advocacy is the belief that the Confederate flag has been hijacked by individuals and groups who have used it for purposes other than to honor their Confederate ancestors. This belief is at the center of their ongoing protest at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and recently in front of the Museum of the Confederacy – Appomattox, owing to the latter’s failure to fly a Confederate battle flag on the walkway leading to the entrance. They would have their fellow Richmonders believe that the meaning behind the planned placement of a large Confederate flag along I-95 in late September is solely about honoring the soldier. Not so fast.

The Virginia Flaggers believe they have established for themselves a high standard for the proper use of the Confederate flag. But when it comes time to defending choices about their own use of the Confederate flag they are silent. The photograph above shows Matthew Heimbach “flagging” the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. As yesterday’s post showed, Heimbach has marched front and center with the Virginia Flaggers on at least one occasion and, last night Flagger spokesman, Tripp Lewis, claimed him as a member.

This raises a very simple question that the Richmond community deserves to have answered. Does Heimbach’s actions in front of the church made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King represent the values of the Virginia Flaggers? In other words, is this an appropriate place to “flag”? Is this an example of honoring one’s Confederate ancestors or Confederate heritage? If so, how? I can’t help but see this as an example of what the Flaggers themselves have referred to as an inappropriate use of the flag, but perhaps I am missing something.

What exactly is Heimbach’s role in the Virginia Flaggers? Has he personally given money to or helped raise money for the I-95 flag project? Finally, does Susan Hathaway herself claim Heimbach as a member or even as a friend of their cause. If the Virginia Flaggers hope for even a modicum level of support in their community than they should be forthcoming in response to what are some very simple questions.

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31 comments… add one
  • John Nov 13, 2013 @ 0:58

    Matthew Heimbach used to have a picture of Romanian fascist Corneliu Codreanu as the background of his Facebook page. He’s definitely a “white nationalist.”

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Sep 20, 2013 @ 8:31

    The most appropriate places for a Confederate flag are, in my opinion, a museum, a Confederate cemetery or monument, and a history class. This guy holding a Confederate flag at a place associated with Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement is not much different than if he were photographed facing the Church and holding up his middle finger.

  • W. M. Headley Sep 19, 2013 @ 13:48

    This person is akin to the KKK in that he desecrates our flag for personal gratification. He fans the fires of hate and racism. Is there any doubt that, 150 years after the War for Southern Independence, we are still looked upon as pro slavery and anti black?


  • Jim Sep 5, 2013 @ 10:19

    I’ve recently joined this blog and in a short period of time have become very interested in the diverse conversation here. For the record I have a ancestor who belonged to the 59th AL, previously known as Hilliard’s Legion. The young man displaying the flag in front of the church burns me up. As a 30 year Army veteran as well as a person born in AL your “colors”, unit and national are very powerful emblems and often solitary rallying symbols in the life of a combat unit. The deprivations often faced by the men in the trenches are shared as are the relatively few positive moments they had. Their unit colors as well as their personal valor should not be degraded by a display as insensitive as this.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 5, 2013 @ 11:22

      Welcome aboard, Jim, and thanks for the comment.

  • Buck Buchanan Sep 4, 2013 @ 10:54

    This guy proves the gene pool needs some chlorine from time to time….

  • Randy Watkins Sep 2, 2013 @ 18:08

    It bothers me that the Flaggers present themselves as representative of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They don’t represent me. What kind of an organization are they? A non-profit organization? Are they incorporated in any state? Where is any money they collect for the flag pole in Chesterfield going if they collect more than they need? How much research have they really done to decide which flag to fly? Lots of questions would have to be answered for me to support them.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2013 @ 1:33

      I’ve seen very little history behind the heritage rhetoric.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Sep 2, 2013 @ 17:40

    This young man reminds me a lot of the character Remy from the movie Higher Learning.

  • Bob Farrell Sep 2, 2013 @ 12:21

    I entered this discussion at mid point so please excuse me if I plow the same field twice.

    Have the Virginia Flaggers identified the banner that is being called the Confederate Flag.

    I am of the belief that there are five flags regularly associated with the Confederates States of America
    a) The three National Flags
    b) The flag of the Army of Northern Virginia
    c) The ensign of the Confederate States Navy

    and which one are they planning to embarrass the current states that supported the CSA ???

    Being a damn Yankee residing here in North Carolina I must agree with them on the point that “whatever flag”, it has been hijacked by others and those people do not respect their ancestors and heritage.

    It causes me to question the value of any group that rallies around a banner that they cannot properly identify

    Bob Farrell

    • Bryan Cheeseboro Sep 2, 2013 @ 12:58

      Considering that under the flags you mentioned (a) The three National Flags; b) The flag of the Army of Northern Virginia; c) The ensign of the Confederate States Navy), the Confederate States of America made it clear that they believed Blacks to be inferior to everyone else and they refused to treat Black Union soldiers as human beings, I don’t think don’t think any “highjacking” by objectionable White supremacist, violent groups (KKK, Neo-Nazis, skinheads) has taken place at all.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Sep 2, 2013 @ 11:02

    I just watched the video of Heimbach and his White Student Union. I’m African-American and I don’t thinks there’s anything wrong at all with a White person expressing pride in the in their culture and heritage. But what this young man fails to understand is that there is no need for his organization because a White Privilege Awareness Group already exists.

  • Patrick Young Sep 2, 2013 @ 6:29

    Mr. Beardon says that while the picture is from early 2012, “most of Matthew’s activities took place in spring or later 2012 and most of 2013.” However, I note that the Flaggers were hailing the award for Heimbach from the SCV in July 2012, after Mr. Beardon says Heimbach’s racist acts took place.

    For those of you not familiar with the White Student Union at Towson, they made headlines this year when one of the members attacked a black Republican for wanting the GOP to include blacks in the party. Here is the report from the Huffington Post (go to link to watch video):

    :K. Carl Smith of Frederick Douglass Republicans was giving a presentation at CPAC about how Republicans could reach out more effectively to minorities. Scott Terry, a member of the White Student Union, began challenging Smith about the inclusion of blacks in the GOP’s tent, in an exchange captured by the liberal blog ThinkProgress that quickly spread around the Internet.”

    “As seen in the video, Smith responds by citing a letter Frederick Douglass wrote in which he forgave his former owner. Terry interrupted and said, “For giving him shelter and food?” Several people in the audience gasp, though ThinkProgress notes there are also cheers. Terry muttered, “Why can’t we just have segregation?” after the exchange, ThinkProgress reported.”

    “When Smith mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Atlantic Wire reports, White Student Union “founder and commander” Matthew Heimbach interrupted that King was a “Marxist,” and consequently not welcome.”

    “After the exchange, Terry told The Guardian that he is a descendent of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, and that he didn’t totally disagree with slavery because it’s a “complicated issue.” He said, “I can’t make one broad statement that categorically it was evil all the time because that’s not true.””

    “Diversity is not a strength,” Heimbach told the Baltimore Sun, adding, “We’re being displaced from our own country,” in reference to immigration. He also told The Blaze that the issue of “forced segregation” should be left to the states.”

    While this incident occurred 9 months after the award, Heimbach had a long history prior to that with the hate group Youth for Western Civilization whose co-founder Marcus Epstein was arrested for attacking a black woman whom he did not know on the streets while shouting “Nigger” at her.

    His infamous chalking of the Towson campus with the slogan “White Power” was done in March 2012, before the award and before the praise from the flaggers.

    Here is Heimbach speaking in his own words about his own views. If the flaggers think he suddenly adopted these views after 2012, they are nuts. He advocates the creation of black homelands in the South along the lines of South Africa.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2013 @ 6:42

      I wouldn’t look for much in the way of consistency from Billy. At least he admitted that it is not an appropriate use of the flag. The Flaggers have every right to welcome and embrace Heimbach and they also have the right to be questioned and criticized for it as a reflection of their broader agenda.

    • Andy Hall Sep 2, 2013 @ 6:59

      Pat, Matt Heimbach was awarded a monetary scholarship from the SCV’s Army of Northern Virginia in August 2011. All the shit-stirring he did at Towson during the 2011-12 academic year, when he was President of the YWC chapter there was, at least in part, done on the SCV’s dime.

      • Patrick Young Sep 2, 2013 @ 8:17

        I read that on your blog Andy. Then they rewarded him with an award in the summer of 2012. This tells me they had a long-term relationship with him and were aware of his work.

        • Andy Hall Sep 2, 2013 @ 8:36

          It’s hard to see how a medal that’s explicitly for those who “have served the SCV in an outstanding manner for an extended period of time in a position of responsibility” gets awarded to a 21-year-old who’s only been with the organization for 15 months. But I’m sure there’s a full explanation coming shortly. It would be pretty ridiculous for the Flaggers to go bragging about Heimbach’s medal, and then refuse to say what “distinguished service” it represents.

        • Billy Bearden Sep 2, 2013 @ 14:21

          Nominations must go in prior to May 15th of each year. The selection process lasts from then till the annual Convention in July. Selections are based on what the nominee did and verified based on actions done for the SCV.

  • Billy Bearden Sep 1, 2013 @ 19:44

    Well no, that is not an appropriate use of the Confederate flag. Yes, as a Virginia Flagger, I make that statement on behalf of my organization. Please share with the other floggers

    That you choose to quote the SPLC as a source of anything kills your credibility instantly, however, it is worth mentioning that all this silly hysteria can be silenced like this –

    The famous photo currently being used to attack us was taken in January 2012. Tom Cruise is NOT a member of the Flaggers, and sadly, therefor, we were unable to secure a ‘Minority Report” on possible future events that Matthew Heimbach would engage in.
    Ironically however, by using your own SPLC link, I read most of Matthew’s activities took place in spring or later 2012 and most of 2013.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2013 @ 2:02


      Glad to hear it, but this is a ridiculous comment.

      The famous photo currently being used to attack us was taken in January 2012.

      You mean February 2012? Why does it matter when it was taken? The fact is that it did take place and despite your statement Heimbach apparently is embraced by Hathaway and Tripp Lewis. I assume you’ve contacted both of these individuals and have advised them to take appropriate steps. Thanks for the comment.

    • Andy Hall Sep 2, 2013 @ 5:21

      Billy, what was Heimbach’s Distinguished Service Medal for? You know, the same medal you were awarded, at the same ceremony, as one of “our own Va. Flaggers”?

      • Billy Bearden Sep 2, 2013 @ 14:09

        At each Convention there is an awards booklet, listing the names of recipients, but not what each person did to get the respective award. The nomination/selection/award process is strict and high, so while y’all haters are gonna hate regardless, whatever he did was apparently worthy, as are all recipients efforts.

        • Andy Hall Sep 2, 2013 @ 14:29

          That’s a convenient deflection. You have a good evening, my friend.

          • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2013 @ 15:41

            What else needs to be said. 🙂

        • Kevin Levin Sep 2, 2013 @ 15:44

          We may not always agree, Billy, but I can see why the SCV would give you an award. You at least put your money where your mouth is and stay active. Given your admission that Heimbach’s “flagging” of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was unwarranted I am surprised that you are leaving it in this way.

  • Craig L. Sep 1, 2013 @ 18:28

    Makes me wonder where Heimbach’s ancestors were during the Civil War. Is it his own heritage he thinks he’s celebrating with his flagger activities? The more or less forced assimilation of German-American culture with mainstream “white” American culture a century ago has made affirming German-American identity problematic for those who don’t want it conflated with “white supremacist” ideology. His time might be better spent flagging the memory of Henry Wirz.

  • Matt McKeon Sep 1, 2013 @ 18:20

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Brad Sep 1, 2013 @ 5:39

    Man, what an ass. I couldn’t believe my eyes at first.

  • Barb Gannon Sep 1, 2013 @ 4:29

    This is an appropriate use of the Confederate flag. It is a rare moment when a modern person openly acknowledges the connection between violence, in this case murder, the oppression of African Americans, and the Confederate flag.

    • James Harrigan Sep 1, 2013 @ 11:40

      You said it better than I could have, Barb.

  • Patrick Young Sep 1, 2013 @ 3:44

    The presence of Matthew Heimbach at flagger events was disturbing. Because of my own fights several years ago with his organization Youth for Western Civilization, I understood the extremism he represents (although I was not aware of his even more extremist recent activities). However, as an organizer of picket lines myself, I understand that an organizer has no control over who shows up at a rally.

    The recent news that Heimbach is an acknowledged member of the group and that he received an important award from the national SCVs puts these groups own views on white supremacy in a sharper focus.

    Flagging a site connected so intimately to a black man murdered by a white supremacist like himself, looks like a sort of victory lap or coup count by Heimbach. What’s next, showing the flag at scenes of lynchings?

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