Posted in Sociopolitical Commentary

Cultural Response: Flags and Racism


This business with the Confederate flag is ridiculous, you guys. Not such that it’s finally being targeted as a symbol of racism and offense, but rather that, (1) it’s even still flying, and (2) that there’s such major pushback against its removal from our public spaces as a nation.

Ever since I was a little kid learning American history, the Confederate flag has represented a history fraught with racism and slavery, of intense violence and oppression. It has represented a faction of people who were so angry about losing the right to own people that they intended to form their own country wherein it couldn’t be disputed. The Confederate flag is the symbol of “rebellion” in its ugliest form, and yet, somehow, thousands of people in this nation seem to think that it’s perfectly okay for it to be flown, and with pride, at that.

News flash: it isn’t okay.

It has never been, and will never be okay.

This is akin to someone whose ancestry contains Nazi Germans flying a Nazi flag and going “No, no, no, it’s not racist! It’s just part of my heritage!”. That wouldn’t fly, would it? So why does the Confederate flag? It’s part of Southern identity? Why are you so proud of being the people who fought back against human rights? Why are you proud to imply that you still think you’re above black people by flying a flag that was designed to separate you from the people who finally woke up and said, “Guys, no, this isn’t cool.”?? I don’t understand, and I don’t think that I ever will.

Companies across the nation are removing media featuring the flag and banning its presence at events, et al, and people are screaming oppression and censorship. We all know that I’m anti-censorship, and have always been, but I don’t think that disallowing a racist symbol to be plastered across public spaces–proudly or otherwise–is really censorship. It’s a call to our black populations that we stand with you, not the people from a hundred years ago who considered you livestock. Why is that so bad?

I, for one, am glad that the subject is finally being tackled. In the upper Midwest, where I was raised, the only people who bought shit with a Confederate flag on it were the people we all considered “trailer trash”, and they were all racists. Every last one of them–at least of those I ever came into contact with. And every time I see a person with that flag on something, I immediately assume that they’re racist. Why else would they fly that flag? There are better ways to advertise your heritage, and there are better ways to advertise where you’re from. This flag is 100% unnecessary in modern American society, and I applaud the day that I never have to see another one in public again.

Like defamatory language, the Confederate flag is a barb in a still-healing wound for many Americans, including African Americans and any white person conscious enough to be embarrassed about how his/her ancestry treated others. Sure, slavery existed, and still exists, elsewhere in the world, and that’s bad. It’s terrible, as a matter of fact, and it definitely needs to come to a stop. No one human being is any better than any other, and until we can accept that and start acting like it, things aren’t really going to get better. The abolishing of this flag, however, is a damned good start.

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Author:

I am a Writing and Publishing graduate student at Emerson College. I studied English and Linguistics in my undergraduate career, as well as a little bit of philosophy and four other languages (somewhat superficially). I am interested in language and how we use it culturally, as well as a vast collection of current sociopolitical issues, including race, sex, and gender, and the ways that those issues intersect each other.

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