The Confederate Flag, and The Daughters of the American Revolution
Only white Americans fly the Confederate flag. Why is that?
When my child was writing his essay on the American flag for a class assignment it brought to mind the Confederate flag. During the presidential campaign this past summer, and most recently since the Trump presidency, the Confederate flag has been flown with impunity. I use the word “impunity” on purpose. White people fly the Confederate flag with impunity. White people fly the Confederate flag to make a statement. A statement that directly contradicts and challenges everything that the American flag represents:
“…almost everything we hold dear on earth. It represents our peace and security, our civil and political liberty, our freedom of religious worship, our family, our friends, our home. We see it in the great multitude of blessings, of rights and privileges that make up our country.”
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States
Or as my apple-polishing kid wrote, “It shows fifty individual states ready for anything that comes at them, in the present or in the future.”
The Confederate Flag in its many incarnations (The Stars and Bars, The Stainless Banner and The Blood-Stained Banner) was the flag used by the “Confederate States” during the Civil War. The Southern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 for the sole purpose of preserving the institution of slavery. Their individual declarations of secession cited threats to slavery in their own states and in the new territories.
The Confederate Flag by historical definition is the symbol of the South; the Antebellum South. It is also known by definition as the “Rebel Flag”. It was used by various political parties in the south: in the 1940’s to oppose Truman’s anti-discrimination laws, in the 1950’s to preserve segregation, and in the 1960’s to oppose civil rights legislation.
The Confederate Flag is the divisive symbol of racism. It is no coincidence that it is used by white supremacists groups across the United States.
Why would anyone fly the Confederate flag when it is so closely linked to racist ideologies? Supporters who use the flag often state, “It’s not a racial thing”. Or, “It’s an expression of Southern heritage and Southern Pride”. And, as one Trump supporter tweeted:
“They’re making me take it down because the media is going to spin it into something that it isn’t.”
How else to spin it?
How can you separate the South’s heritage from the South’s history of enslavement and Jim Crow?
An obvious analogy is to ask “Can the swastika be separated from the Nazis?” Of course not. Can the Olympic Rings represent anything other than the Olympics? Hardly.
This is the story of whiteness. To be white and have white privilege is to stand up in a room full of people, look directly into the eyes of brown, black, or red skinned people and tell them what is and what is not racism. White people can ignore history. White people can ignore experts. White people can ignore their neighbors. The power of privilege allows supporters of the Confederate flag to argue that the flag can be a racial slur, but in this moment it is not. In other words, to be white is to assert that ugly, insulting, and racist symbols can be separated from their intention, history, or definition.
As for the Daughters of the American Revolution, those staunch champions of the American Flag, who sponsor middle-school essay competitions across the states, and who publish a leaflet outlining patriotic customs on the flying of our national flag, I asked them if the DAR has an official position on the Confederate Flag. For, is not the flying of the Confederate Flag an act of disrespect towards the National Flag?
In response to my query, Ms. Linda L. Hunt, National Chair of the Daughters of the American Revolution, answered…
“This national chair represents the Flag of the United States and we follow the U.S. Flag Code. We do not comment other flags, i.e. the Confederate Flag.”
Why the hell not?