Since the shooting that resulted in the deaths of nine members of Emanuel AME church, the Confederate flag flown on Charleston's Capitol building has been receiving quite a lot of attention. Protesters and politicians alike have called for its removal, while others say that it is a symbol of Southern heritage. What exactly is the Southern heritage that the Confederate flag represents?
The Confederate flag has had a lot of faces. What we call the Confederate flag today is a combination of several designs and was never actually a representative banner for the whole South during the Civil War. The flag flying over Charleston's Capitol building has not been flying for a long time, either. The flag was raised on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War in 1961. It was seen by some as an emblem of resistance to the civil rights movement, raised in response to the decision to desegregate schools, a precedent set by Brown vs. Board of Education. However, the timing of the Confederate flag in Charleston does not give meaning to the flag itself. The Confederate flag is the banner for the Confederacy.
Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, gave what is referred to now as the Cornerstone Speech. He gave this speech as an introduction to the new Confederate government that the South was fighting for in the Civil War. He described the Confederacy as operating on one central idea:
“They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races…Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
It is near impossible to separate the Confederate flag from its history of deep-rooted racism. According to the leadership of the Confederacy, the belief that black men and women are inferior to their white counterparts was the cornerstone of the government they proposed. While the opposition to removing the flag in Charleston argue that it honors the Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War, why don't we fly the Union Jack in the North? Why doesn't Germany honor the Nazi lives lost in World War II?
The answer is simple. We can honor our ancestors and the sacrifices they made without implicitly supporting the ideas they held. The Confederate flag has stains of racism throughout its existence. It brings pain in remembrance of slaves during the Civil War in the same way the swastika reminds us of the tragedy of the Holocaust. It is a stark statement that those who fly the Rebel flag think that blacks are inferior.
The Confederate flag is a part of our history that should never be forgotten. It is part of a war that molded us a nation, one nation. Although it has an important role in our past, it should have no place in our present.