Dispelling the Myth: What does the Confederate flag truly represent?
The Confederate flag represents the Confederate States of America, a collection of eleven states led by Jefferson Davis who seceded from the United States of America in 1860 following the election of President Abraham Lincoln. As early as 1850 our union (the United States) began to fragment culturally and economically. The primary reason for the division centered around the abolition of slavery, an ideology advanced by Northern politicians.
Southern States, those that would eventually form the Confederate States of America, relied heavily on slave labor, as their primary means of economic support revolved around agricultural production (specifically cotton). Northern States had successfully developed an industrialized economy, which remained robust throughout the Civil War. By the summer of 1861 the Union Navy (Northern) had successfully blockaded all major southern ports, which prevented the export of cotton and the import of military supplies. This tactic crippled the Southern economy and ultimately hampered their war effort.
A defining moment in our nation’s history, the Civil War, resulted in in the deaths of nearly 620,000 troops. On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, marking the beginning of the end of the war. Officially, the Civil War concluded on May 13, 1865 and the Confederate States of America ceased to exist.
The results of a survey conducted in December of 2019 by YouGov suggests that approximately 35% of Americans view the confederate flag as a symbol of heritage. The poll was commissioned when former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, suggested the Confederate flag once meant “service, sacrifice, and heritage” in the South; however, later she acknowledged the flag had been “hijacked” by white supremacists. Their findings allude to an increase in support for Confederate flag within older (age) rural (farm communities) and populations who have not been exposed to higher learning.
Allow me to draw a parallel. For African-Americans who are descendants of slaves, to see official acknowledgement of the Confederate States of America would be akin to a person of Jewish descent seeing the flag of Nazi Germany (the flag of the German Reich, featured a red flag with the swastika on a white disc) flying at the Consulate General of Germany in New York (the German Embassy). The outcry would be immense were something like that to occur.
Yet, the Confederate Flag was still flown in conjunction with the United States Flag at the South Carolina State House until July 10, 2015 when Republican Governor Nikki Haley ordered it to be removed from the grounds.
Today, statues to Confederate Generals are being removed from public view by municipalities and institutions of higher learning across the nation, as they should be. The military is considering renaming bases, whose names pay homage to the Confederacy. Even NASCAR has outlawed the display of the Confederate flag from its events. Many Americans have concluded we can no longer embrace a heritage rooted in the subjugation of an entire race of people.
While symbolic, perhaps removing the Confederate flag is a first step towards rectifying a legacy of hatred and oppression.