While I know the debate over the Confederate flag is far from over, I’ve mostly avoided the topic lately because I said pretty much all I can say about the subject in the days following the tragic shooting that left nine African-Americans dead in Charleston, South Carolina.
But as Al Pacino says in the Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out – they pull me back in.” And by “they” I mean people who continue to defend the Confederate flag. In my time covering politics I’ve written many articles, and I’ve received many messages telling me just how much of an idiot I supposedly am, but I’ve never received as many about one particular subject as I have from those defending the Confederate flag. Especially since I haven’t written anything about the flag for well over a week.
Well, after getting several of these messages yesterday, I was inspired to write a bit of a “How To” guide to assist those who might be experiencing similar idiocy.
So, here are 5 ways to counter some of the dumbest things I’ve heard people say in defense of the Confederate flag.
1. That flag doesn’t even represent the Confederacy, it’s the Army of Northern Virginia Battle Flag: This is said by the person who apparently doesn’t feel that symbols representing a horrific movement still represent that movement. For these people I typically just like to ask them:
Okay, so then does that mean that paraphernalia, such as badges or officer ranks, worn by Nazi soldiers fighting during WWII don’t represent what Nazi Germany stood for?
2. The war was about states’ rights: Probably the most popular thing uttered by these people. To these folks you simply ask:
While that might be contextually true, what was the biggest “right” that these Confederate states were fighting to keep?
3. The flag just represents “Southern pride” and “heritage”: While a bit more long-winded, this one is simple:
When you take a flag that flew over the army of a movement that was defending the “state’s right” in the South to own human beings as property; that was then subsequently adopted by the Ku Klux Klan almost immediately following the defeat of that movement; and was then used for nearly a century by people who, in those very same states that fought for slavery, were defending segregation using the flag as a representation of their values – values that were linked to the South’s deep tradition of denying African-Americans their rights – you’re right, that is heritage… and it’s heritage of which you should be ashamed.
Bonus: If today, in 2015, a group of individuals decided to shed any allegiance to the very government by which our Constitution elected, then carried out a planned attack on a U.S. military installation, what would you call them? Heroes or domestic terrorists?
4. The flag isn’t racist: This one is fairly simple as well:
Name a time in history where at least some people who fiercely opposed African-Americans having equal rights didn’t use this flag to represent their values.
Follow up: Why do the KKK, white supremacists and racists in general use this flag to symbolize their beliefs and feelings against African-Americans?
5. The United States as a whole had slavery for years, so that flag is no less offensive: This one is a tad bit trickier because it requires thinking in terms of context rather than talking points. Though it amazes me how those who use this “reasoning” are so dedicated to their defense of the Confederate flag that they’ll try to bash the American flag in an attempt to support their ignorance:
Yes, while it’s true the United States as a whole did support slavery, it was abolished in the North in 1804 and the last slaves were freed about 15 years before the Civil War began. Not only that, but for most of the time the United States government allowed slavery it was commonly practiced throughout many nations around the world. While that doesn’t excuse its practice, it’s important to understand the context of the time period about which you’re speaking when discussing these issues. Besides, there’s a huge difference between honoring a flag that represents a nation that, while imperfect, evolved toward equality, and honoring a flag that represents nothing but a treasonous movement that sought to impede that progress, while continuing (and hoping to expand) the barbaric practice of slavery.
While these might not make much of a difference in the minds of those who so blindly ignore history, I hope this helps give some of you a few responses you might not have thought of yet to address those who seem to enjoy proudly showing off their ignorance about the Civil War, the Confederacy and racism.
Feel free to hit me up on Twitter to let me know how it goes, or to share some of the absurd defenses of the Confederate flag you’ve come across.
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