Kids, there’s been a lot of controversy involving the Confederate flag recently. Really, I suppose there’s been a lot of controversy about the thing for 150 years. But it’s really heated up in recent months.
Disclaimer: I’ve stated in the past that I avoid writing about polarizing issues such as this. But it keeps coming up in the news and it keeps exploding in our faces. So here we are.
Yesterday, the local news reported that a local high school suspended 20 students who refused to remove clothing which depicted the Confederate flag. As of the beginning of this school year, the school’s dress code has been amended to include a ban on the old symbol. That ban was also extended to student vehicles, meaning no flags, no bumper stickers, etc.
This morning, on my way to work, I stopped at a local convenience store for a caffeine fix. On my way out, I saw one of the kids I recognized from yesterday’s news story. Parked next to my car was his friend, sitting in a pick-up truck draped in Confederate symbols. I’m fairly non-confrontational when it comes to strangers in a gas station parking lot, but I kind of wanted to ask those kids the point of their protest. Why jeopardize your education over the symbol of a nation that doesn’t even exist anymore?
Growing up in Virginia (which I’m aware people in the deep south probably don’t consider the south, but they need to be reminded that Richmond served as the Confederate capitol for a time), the controversy over the Confederate flag has flared up periodically throughout my life. It usually comes up in regards to the flag being flown in a public display or on government property. More often than not, it seems the old guard continued to get their way to keep the flag wherever they’ve wanted it.
Personally, I don’t understand the continued tie to that flag. Even though it’s a small percentage of the population that continues to insist it’s important to the culture of the south, I still don’t understand it. To me, it isn’t a part of our modern culture. It’s a part of history. It represents one of the darkest periods in American history. We were a divided nation and could have easily fallen completely apart less than a hundred years after our inception.
Don’t get me wrong, I love history. I value everything that our past represents. If we can’t learn from our past, what’s to stop us from making the same mistakes again? And while I’m aware that the Confederate States split from the Union for many reasons, most of the general population is under the impression that it was all about slavery. So, for them, that flag is not a symbol of a people fighting for states’ rights. It’s a symbol of hatred and oppression.
I’d like to believe that, had I asked those high school kids why they’re so adamant about clinging to the symbol of a long dead nation, they would have provided me with a well thought out and articulated argument for the importance of its history to our culture. But experience has taught me that I probably would have heard a lot of ignorant nonsense that would boil down to something their daddy’s daddy’s daddy told them was important or that they were told not to do something and so they just had to rebel against it. Which, I guess, actually makes that flag appropriate to their situation.
I’m a middle-class white guy who was raised in a middle-class white family in the 80s and 90s. The truth is, I’ll never look at the Confederate flag and see the same thing that a black man who made it through the Civil Rights movement of the 60s would see. But I can also say, with great confidence, that I’ll never see what those who continue to display it see, either. I mentioned before, in my eyes, it’s the symbol of a dead nation. It’s a flag that belongs in our history books, not our flagpoles. We already have a pretty awesome flag. One that unarguably stands for liberty.
Where do you stand on this issue? I genuinely want to know people’s opinions for either side of this argument. I only ask that, if you comment, you not blatantly attack other commenters. I welcome a healthy debate, but I will not tolerate petty name-calling or hatred.