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Heritage or Hate? The Confederate Flag

In the thick swoon of coastal humidity, sweat mixing with the salt of tears, Charlestonians gathered in front of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church only hours after hearing word of the tragedy that had befallen the congregation. Bouquets of cherry reds, whispering pinks, and cotton cool whites were arranged by the door and were accompanied by the warmth of a stranger’s hug and a hushed prayer.

The shooting at Emanuel AME on June 17, which took nine lives, has been labeled a hate crime; the alleged gunman, a white supremacist. The victims, ranging in age from early 20s to late 70s, meeting to receive sustenance for the week ahead, looking forward to fellowship and maybe some good natured gossip. The gunman, driven by an unrelatable intensity and hatred, creating a nightmarish scenario that only he understood.

A shock wave ripped through South Carolina and the United States, conjuring the images of four little girls from Birmingham. “How did this happen?” so many asked. “Why?” “Can we make sense of this at all?”

Charleston is a city brimming in bubbling, rich history. A colonial town founded in 1670 and named after King Charles II, it quickly became a shipping hub second only to Boston and New York. The Revolutionary War was deemed cause to construct Fort Sullivan, now known as Fort Moultrie, and it is also home to Fort Sumter, it’s role pivotal in the Civil War. Politically, culturally, and historically, Charleston is a deep and diversely mixed place to call home.

Even Emanuel AME has a place in history. According to it’s website, the church was the supposed meeting place of Denmark Vesey and his followers as they planned the Slave Rebellion of 1821. The church was burned during the investigation of the plot and was in operation until 1834, when all black churches were shut down. The doors opened once again in 1865 and was moved to it’s current location in 1872. The building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1886 and rebuilt again in 1891. This incarnation stands today, the tall white steeple brushing the skyline, offers a glimpse of “the largest and oldest black congregation(s) south of Baltimore, Maryland.”

While families, a city, and a country continues to mourn, a new movement has spouted through the Southern US. In the past week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) made a historic call to lower the Confederate Flag at the State House.

In an interview with Myrtle Beach Online, she said:

“‘What is so important for people to understand is that there’s no winners and losers here. I know people who truly respect this Confederate flag. They respect honor. They respect duty. They respect service, and that’s what they want’… “But when it’s used for hate, I can’t allow anything used for hate to be on the State House grounds and represent all the people of South Carolina. I work for all of the people of South Carolina.” (Myrtle Beach Online June 29, 2015).

It seems as though there is no lukewarm reaction to this issue. One the one hand, some people see the Confederate Flag as a piece of history, a symbol of a nation that would not stand by the edicts of the federal government. It flies for them to represent their stance against oppression of liberties and tyrants. On the other hand, there are those who feel the flag is a direct link to hatred, as it has been the backdrop for scores of burnings, hangings, intimidation, denial of civil rights, and assassinations. For them, it is also seen as a sign of oppression, and one that accompanies fear.

The questions to be posed are: Will racism be challenged if the Confederate Flag is lowered? Will people be more likely to be more educated if the flag is lowered? What are some ways that racism can be eradicated?

I am left pondering these and many more questions after the tragedy of June 17 and the other racially motivated crimes that have occurred through history. I feel this is an important topic that must be discussed with cool heads heated by hearts who hope for the advancement of humanity.

Feel free to leave a comment, but please be respectful of the views of others.

18 Comments

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  1. I’m raised and born in Texas and to me it stands as a symbol of Heritage. The war between the south and north was fought for more then just slavery. It was about freedom and oppression, and more but my point is without the war there wouldn’t be a Untied States of America totally united. They flag to me honors those who fought really on both sides and it should be used as such. I hope this blows over soon because it’s getting way out of hand.

  2. I feel the confederate flag stands for heritage of the southern states. A symbol of the south seceding from the union in 1861. It honors the southern soldiers who gave there life in the civil war.

    1. I have two that died… one in Andersonville, the other in New Orleans and a third was shot at Cold Harbor. All three fought for the north but I agree-reminder of those who died and reminder of just how different this country could have ended up.

  3. I lived in Charleston for many years during my middle school and high school years and have lived in the south since I was 5. That beautiful city is steeped in the history of the Civil War and that era. I cannot remember any of my friends or their parents having a confederate flag around their homes. I remember seeing them in the old historic district of downtown but not at people’s houses. I can however remember KKK stories on the news and vividly remember the confederate flags being waved by the “rally” participants. Do I think that it symbolizes racism? You bet! To some that is exactly what it symbolizes for them. Does it symbolize their pride for the south? Probably. Their pride for how things used to be and their desire for it to be like that again. I think it does symbolize heritage and family pride for others though. And maybe as a reminder of that dark time in our country’s history and a reminder to never go back there. But because it has different meanings for different people, then Maybe it shouldn’t be flown on government property. Government buildings, especially state capitals, are representative of ALL citizens and no one should be offended by something like a flag that hasn’t flown as a government symbol for over 150 years. Ban it completely? No. But it should come down from government flag poles and its image shouldn’t be part of state flags. My opinion, take it for what it’s worth.

    1. I think the question here though is, where does it stop? How many people within our country make the argument that Ol’ Glory is offensive? Should we remove it from every office and government building? Or remove it from schools, businesses, etc. because someone chooses to be offended by it? There is no question slavery is wrong-a dark spot in our history. However, even the darkest spots are responsible for what the country has become today. Old glory flew during slavery times. It flew while the Japanese Americans were being relocated to camps on the west coast during WWII. It flies above a land that once belonged to the natives. Do we pull our flag down and replace it with a knew one to “escape” or forget the past? Not a chance. Forgetting history is a dangerous thing. So is the overly PC witch hunt that is taking place these days. We start banning things every time some crazy person crawls out of a hole to cause chaos or decides that are offended by something on a whim-eventually everything will be fair game. People need to stop falling for the overly PC propaganda because all it is doing these days is creating a greater divide.

      1. I totally agree with Kris. We are raising a passel of over-protected young people whose helicopter parents have instilled in them an overwhelming sense of entitlement. They feel they don’t have to coexist with anyone who disagrees with them, and must scramble to find safe zones so as not to be exposed to any word, action, photo or individual that might offend them. This country was built on its diversity. The cornerstone of our society is it’s right to free speech. “I may not agree with what you say – but I will defend, to the death, your right to say it.” I live in Charleston and am proud and humbled by the response my Holy City has made to the recent violence. We need to take a lesson from Charleston and move forward with grace and dignity. Only in learning to respect those we disagree with can we truly find peace in our society.

      2. Well said Kris. How can future generations know and understand the struggles and growth of this nation with her history being washed away. Seems counterproductive.

      3. ‘Old Glory’ (the American Flag) represents ALL of us; the Confederate flag represented WHITE people. No one else had any power at that time, including women! Forgetting history IS a dangerous thing. I do not want any witch hunts for anything or anyone; however, as I’ve begun to really, really research into this, I have changed my mind about that flag. I’m kind of embarrassed by the fact that we have it flying anywhere at all!

        1. Mary,
          If we used your argument-it is also true that at one time old glory only represented white men. Under it women legally couldn’t vote and had no place outside the home. Under it, slaves were kept. Under it, Natives where driven from their land. But it still stands-to represent all of us and our struggles. Many could say they are embarrassed that it still flies anywhere. Your argument doesn’t hold up. This is only an issue because of one crazy gunman.

      4. You bring up a good point Kris. My thought though is that Ol’ Glory is an active flag unlike the Confederate flag. Getting rid of Ol’ Glory will not erase its past anymore than not flying the confederate flag would erase its past. To me, some fly the confederate flag to be malicious. Also, I don’t get the feeling that Americans fly the American flag to be hateful. It is done out of pride. Some have the Confederate flag because they respect the heritage but also know that it is offensive to others. They make a choice to not fly the flag out of respect for or maybe even fear of their fellow man. They care about the flag but also know that it can represent intolerance and can be offensive. Each person has to make their own choice if they want to fly a Confederate flag. I don’t feel the flag should be erased from existence. I think that in some cases it is better to choose kindness and being respectful to people over flying a non-active flag at a government building. I do understand that we can’t just go eliminating everything that offends people. But we can look into our hearts and find a way to show people, we care about how things affect them. Flying the confederate flag is a slap in the face to some people. Being that it is not currently active, it really has no place at government facilities unless; we are going to fly all flags that had any effect on the heritage and shaping of the United States of America. Foreign and domestic. I believe it belongs in museums and memorial settings. People have the right to display them in/on their homes. It should be respected and reflected on. You are right, we shouldn’t forget about it. We should continue to teach our children about it. Thanks for sharing this awesome blog by the way. It is very interesting seeing all the different point of views. Enjoying, Key to your Tree. Look forward to more posts.

      5. I agree with you, Kris. I was born and raised in TN, and it had not been a symbol of hate for anybody in my family. It has always represented Heritage if the Civil War. I am so tired of everybody being offended by everything and our government and court systems removing and banning things because somebody might be offended. It’s total crap. Tye government is causing this country to divide. In some ways it feels worse than ever….

        1. Well I will tell you one thing, this is the most thought provoking, intelligent and polite discussion that I have seen regarding this topic. Thank you all for that. I see your point Kris no I agree with parts of your statement. Flags all over the world have different meanings for whoever was on whatever side of those flags; oppressor or oppressed. To me, and this my opinion, the confederate flag represents slavery and racism to an entire race of AMERICANS. And if racism weren’t still an issue in the U.S., maybe folks wouldn’t feel the way they do about the flag. Yes, the U.S. Flag has flown over many atrocities in this country but as another commenter said it flown with pride. Many white supremacist groups continue to fly the “stars and bars” as a symbol for their hate of a race and that is why I don’t think it should be flown over state government buildings. I don’t think that

          1. Is an affront to the first amendment.
            Sorry something went wrong with my previous posting. Fly it over your house, drape it over your shoulders if it means that much to your heritage. Just don’t continue to offend and hurt people at the state level. I have truly enjoyed this respectful conversation and sharing of opinions!

  4. Since I am from Minnesota & therefore, a “Yank”, I don’t feel it’s right for me to say what it represents to me… However, the main question is like you said, Kris, “where does it stop?” because many things can be offensive when looking at its history… It IS a “freedom of speech” issue, but since it IS a government building representing the state of South Carolina, why not take a poll or have an official vote asking the South Carolina citizens whether the flag should stay up or be taken down… Then based on THAT decision, do the appropriate action:)

  5. It’s the same in the UK with our union jack the thing people forget is its not the flag that killed it was a person with a gun that killed

  6. Agree with you 100 percent Kris

  7. I USED to feel that the flag stood for heritage, etc. And, technically, it does. When you read about it, it represented the south not wanting the north to “tell them what to do” – regarding slavery! If you realize the main purpose of the confederacy was to keep their slaves, then you have to realize that the flag does, in fact, represent racism, because the folks who started it stated, in writing, that whites were better than blacks and had no place in our society, etc. READ for yourselves what was going on…DO NOT just listen to what others tell you. Read REAL history books.

    1. I DO read real history books and still do not agree with you. The flag to me is a reminder that this country could have been split. It is also a flag two of my ancestors died fighting against and another was shot fighting against. It’s a symbol of the dark past we overcame. For many it is different things-not all of them racist. This has only become and issue because of one psycho. It is a politically and emotionally driven witch hunt. Removing the flag doesn’t change the heads or hearts of the insane. Just removes us further from our roots and creates an “open season” on everything and anything else people can decide to call offensive. Again-where does it stop?

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