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The Meaning of the Confederate Flag

I was surprised after watching a excerpt of the Daily Show online that the Confederate flag still flies publicly in the South. Jon Stewart chose not to do a comedy episode but discuss serious issues related to the Emanuel hurch shootings. What is the meaning of this flag to different people? I am trying to see it from both sides. Why does the flag still fly, high and proud? White Southerners claim it is due to the pride they feel in history of their ancestors who fought and died in the civil war and has nothing to do with racism. They display it outside their homes and on their license plates; some even paint it on their cars. The majority of Black Southerners, naturally, hate or fear the flag since it is a symbol of the war, supported by people, who if they had won would probably still be keeping African-Americans as slaves in their homes even today.

One of America’s main themes is the right to free speech. If flying the flag is an action that is not hurting anybody, and Americans deserve the right to free speech, is there any reason for it to be taken down? And what does it mean when the State Capitol building in South Carolina flies the flag? I do not understand it when the Stars & Stripes was flown at half-mast after the church shooting but the Confederate flag remained flying high. It implies being a part of the Confederacy is more important in the South than being a part of the USA.

Can we truly say that flying the flag is not hurting anybody? From the little I read online, it seems that the majority of racist shooters are white males. To be honest, while there have been many African-American shooters, I am aware of none, and certainly no majority, that did it with a racist agenda, shooting only white people. This shows a grand disparity in the concept of racism between black and white people. Dylan Roof said he felt “blacks have taken over the country”. Perhaps he felt that jobs he could have got had been given to black men instead. Us_south_censusAlso, it turns out that his unrequited love interest was dating a black man. What happens when a white child sees the flag in their home and asks about it? Does the father simply mention pride in their ancestors or pride in what they fought for? I doubt we will ever know the truth. Southerners displaying the flag may say one thing in public and another in private. I seriously doubt any loving parent would actually tell any child to go out and kill blacks due to fear of the legal repercussions but they may encourage hate towards the black community. Even if the parent does nothing to encourage hate towards blacks, the child learns that the flag represented a war against emancipation of blacks.

Personally, while I have no positive opinion of the flag, I have few major negative ones either. I am an Indian and it has no real meaning for me. If Southerners want to display the flag, let them. But certainly not flown on government buildings which should represent the nation as whole. However, by itself, I don’t think it is a symbol of hate though it can be mistaken for one. After all, I don’t think Germans display the swastika as a symbol of pride in their Nazi ancestors. There is even a black man, Byron Thomas, who displays the flag in public and is pro slavery! While he says he understands why his fellow African-Americans don’t support the flag, he says he does because he had an ancestor who fought for the South and has pride in him and, slavery is the reason he is an American today. I wonder if Byron truly knows why black troops fought for the South and what the slavery of his ancestors would have meant if the South had won. Both the North and South needed troops and granted the lure of emancipation to blacks so they would enlist. I am guessing temporary emancipation in the South since that was what they were fighting against. This also implies that displaying the flag is probably mostly a symbol of patriotism rather than hate. But I also believe, in the South, it means patriotism for the South and not the entire USA. The US flag has been burned by both blacks and whites in the South, the Confederate by blacks. I believe this IS a symbol of hate — from both sides. And hate only breeds more hate.

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