I am writing to you concerning, the article titled, “The South Lost”, published in The Tiger newspaper on March 6, 2009. Mr. Roth, the author of this article states that the Confederate flag is a symbol of oppression, racism, and hatred. I believe that some people still see the flag as a representation of a horrible time in our country. However, that is not what the Confederate flag stands for and is not how it should be used.
I read this article because I personally found the title offensive and I wanted to find out what the author had to say. There are some southerners who would disagree with this title and argue that the South did not lose. Well, I will have to agree, the South lost. As a southerner myself, I know this and accept it. This however, has nothing to do with why you will see the Confederate flag in many places in the South and why many southerners choose to fly, wear, and display the flag.
We should begin with the origins of the Confederate flag. The flag came about as an alternative to the Confederate National flag when the South seceded from the union. The Southern National flag too closely resembled the flag of the United States of America and was therefore difficult to distinguish between during the Civil War. Then, the Confederate flag or rebel flag was designed as an alternative to the Confederate National flag. The red, white, and blue of the flag were meant to resemble the colors of the original United States flag. These colors were used because the southern states wanted the flag to be reminiscent of the flag of the United States, but also unique. The thirteen white stars represent the thirteen southern states that seceded from the Union. People today have forgotten about the original Confederate National flag and therefore the Confederate flag stands as the symbol of the southern secession (Sons, 2008).
The Civil War was a horrible time in our country. Slavery, of any people, regardless of race was and is wrong. Slavery was one of the main causes of the Civil War. However, there were other reasons for the war (Kelly, 2009). Southerners, which are traditionally conservative in values, have always stood for small government. During the time of the Civil War the government was trying to tell the people of the South how to control and run their own states. States rights versus federal rights were a major issue that led to the Civil War (Kelly, 2009). The states in the South believed very strongly that they should be able to act independently from the federal government.
Therefore, the Confederate flag does not stand for slavery, it stands for a time in our history when Americans stood up to bigger government and said, “no more”. I am not denying the fact that during the Civil War, some people were fighting to keep their slaves. But, there were southerners who fought and died who did not own slaves. They fought because they believed their civil rights were being stripped. Approximately 4.8% of southern families owned slaves (Civil War, 2008).
I do believe that people, especially African Americans, Native Americans, and northerners who lived during the Civil War era despised the Confederate flag, and with good reason. However, the people today who complain about the flag did not live through the war. They were not the ones who were enslaved or had to fight for their rights or beliefs. So, why are they the ones who are getting upset?
The Confederate flag has been misused. Groups such as the Klu Klux Klan and other hatred organizations have taken the Confederate flag and used it as a symbol for their movement. There are even people who are not members of these groups but they fly this flag and do not use it appropriately. This is one reason people have such a disgust for the flag today. This is not how the flag should be used. True southerners, the ones who really know what the flag means for the South and for the southern heritage do not condone this behavior.
In the article, the author compares the Confederate flag to the Nazi swastika. It is impossible to compare the Confederate flag to the Nazi swastika. To begin with, the Confederate flag arose as a symbol for what was once a separate nation. It began as a flag that represented the South seceding from the Union. The swastika was originally a positive symbol in religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Nazis took that symbol and stripped it of its prior meaning to use it as a symbol for Hitler’s Party. This party, stood for hatred for anyone who was not a white supremacist. This is clearly portrayed in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Secondly, the Confederate flag was still used as a symbol for the South as a united part of the country, even after the Civil War. When Germany and the other axis powers lost World War II, the Nazi Party was no more and thus, so was the swastika. Finally, today the Confederate flag is still seen by many people as a symbol of southern heritage and pride. The Swastika is only seen as something good to white supremacists who still use it to represent their hatred.
Mr. Roth (author) states, “When you fly the rebel flag, when you wear the rebel flag, when you support the rebel flag, you are treating it with the same reverence that those who committed such awful crimes against humanity did” (Roth, 2009). I disagree with this statement. I believe that there are those of us who do know the true history of the flag and understand exactly what it means and stands for. These people understand that slavery was wrong and we do not agree with any crimes that were committed against people because of their skin color or ethnicity. However, we also know that there is a deeper meaning to the flag.
I do not condone flying the Confederate flag on the back of one’s truck or doing any other thing that is so blatant or in-your-face. However, I do not see anything wrong with Confederate flag bumper stickers, shirts, or displaying it in other forms that are not as offensive. As long as people do these things with full knowledge of southern history and do not do them out of arrogance, I believe it is ok.
The Confederate flag should symbolize southern pride and heritage. It should be looked at as a coat of arms would be looked at. For people who were born and raised in the South, it is a part of us. A flag itself can mean nothing unless people allow it to. It holds the meaning that people give to it. If we allow the Confederate flag to be a symbol of hatred, racism, oppression, and tyranny, that is exactly what it will continue to be seen as. However, if we treat it as a symbol of heritage, pride, and history, that is what it will be.