I'm from the South, and it's clear that racism has never gone away. I've never known someone who flies the Confederate flag and supports Confederate imagery to not have some sort of racist tendencies. It just continues to get passed from generation to generation. People ranging from my age to my grandparents' age have done everything from disapprove of interracial relationships to refer to MLK Day as "National N-word Day" to generally complaining about and making racist remarks about non-whites. They think the Confederate States were the good guys, mere victims of big-government "Northern aggression." My own father thinks that everything he thinks is wrong with this country can, ultimately, be laid at the feet of Abraham Lincoln.
But they never want to own up to the slavery issue. They keep wanting to evade the topic or engage in rhetorical trickery or whataboutism. They live in denial, trying to convince themselves and others that they're not racist despite, among other things, actively supporting a long-dead nation that was founded for purely racist reasons. And they deny history, engaging in flat-out attempted negation of the facts. They want to whitewash the legacy of the Confederacy because it's so ingrained in their conception of "Southern pride" and because deep down they know that the broader society will never truly accept the morally bankrupt values of the Confederacy. And if there are people who honestly do think that Confederate iconography really is just an innocuous expression of "Southern pride," then they are simply ignorant, and there is no excuse for such ignorance, especially here and now in the Internet Age where you have a world of information at your fingertips.
No matter what, it is a simple fact of the matter than you cannot extricate the symbols of a nation from that nation's values. You cannot extricate communism from the Soviet hammer & sickle. You cannot extricate anti-Semitism and fascism from Nazi iconography. And you cannot extricate slavery and white supremacy from Confederate flags and monuments. All of these symbols exist to send a message, and in the case of Confederate symbols, that message is: "We will never regard the black man as equal to the white man." Confederate symbols are a direct reflection of the racist and atrocious value system of the antebellum South. Confederate leaders themselves explicitly spelled out why they seceded from the Union.
Here they are, in their own words.
First, let's take a good look at the "Declarations of Causes" that several seceding states issued outlining their reasons for leaving the Union. I recommend reading them in full, but if you're pressed for time do a Ctrl+F search for "slave." You'll get 83 results. Searching for other terms like "tax" or "trade" reveals that such reasons were not even a factor. The state governments of the newly-formed Confederate States made it abundantly clear that they were seceding over the issue of slavery.
The Confederate Constitution also gives explicit protections for the "right" to own other human beings as property. Here are the relevant clauses:
"No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." — Article I, Section 9, Clause 4
"The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired." — Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1
"No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs, or to whom such service or labor may be due." — Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3
"The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States." — Article IV, Section 3, Clause 3
And the cherry on top of this racist pie is the "Cornerstone Speech," written by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephen. Here's an excerpt:
"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."
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. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal."
It's all there, black-and-white, clear as crystal. The Confederate States were formed, and initiated & engaged in armed rebellion against the United States, solely to preserve and protect the institution of slavery. After their loss, as soon as they were able to bring an end to Reconstruction those former Confederate states immediately set out to ignore the 14th and 15th Amendments, instituted Jim Crow laws that would stand for over 80 years, and erected monuments to honor racist traitors, and their descendants would continue to follow in their stead.
If anyone supports Confederate iconography, then this is what they are defending. Try as they might, they cannot run from it, hide from it, deny it, or ignore it. Confederate flags and memorials have no place on taxpayer property. The Confederates and their failed racist nation do not deserve to be honored or memorialized in any way, shape, or form. Tear the monuments down and rip the flags from their poles. Sell them to a museum or some other private buyer. But their continued presence on public lands is an outrage and needs to end. Iconoclasm has been a response to statues and other symbols dedicated to tyrannical regimes the world over. Why should such iconoclasm be viewed any differently here?
Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 10 July 2020