Ever since the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME church there has been a fierce debate over the Confederate Rebel battle flag. There are two sides to this debate. One side says that the flag symbolizes hate but the other says it’s about Southern Pride and heritage. The majority of black people believe the former while the majority of whites hold to the latter. However, we must take a look back at history to get a look at why the flag was created.
In December 1860 South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Ten other states would soon follow after that and would become the Confederate States of America. What was the reason behind their succession? The South wanted to keep African-Americans as slaves to work the fields and to produce a profit.
There were initially three flags that the South considered as there national flag. None of these were the Confederate battle flag or what is commonly referred to as the “Stars and Bars”. This flag was adopted by Robert E. Lee and his army.
When the Civil War ended the battle flag became a symbol of Southern Pride and heritage. However, Robert E. Lee in the years following the war did everything he could to disassociate himself from the war and its symbols. In April 1865 Lee became president of Washington College and upon taking office vowed to support the U.S. Constitution and he urged his former fellow Confederates to do likewise.
Lee was in opposition to erecting monuments on the battlefields of Confederate soldiers saying, “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.”
Upon his death Lee didn’t even wear his uniform or have any flags at his funeral. His daughter is quoted as saying, “His Confederate uniform would have been ‘treason’ perhaps!”
The rebel flag only came back in 1948 when the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to take shape. It came to be used by the KKK and other white supremacist groups as well as a splinter group of conservatives. At that time they were known as Democrats. The splinter group became States’ Rights Democratic Party or “Dixiecrats”
Now after stepping back and listening to differing perspectives on the issue and also doing a little reflecting myself I began to realize that this issue is just like the N-Word. Black people use the N-Word now as a term of endearment when its original intent was used for hate and degradation. Most black people have adopted the word as their own and have given it a new meaning. This is the same with the battle flag.
All of that being said, however, both should be retired. Many black people, including myself, don’t like the word because we recognize and acknowledge where it comes from and its original intent. Symbols of hate and division just like hate speech have no place in public and should be relegated to museums. I understand that some may have different meanings behind these things but when you begin to become oblivious to the feelings of others and lack empathy for those negatively affected by them then we will cease to have unity, love, and peace for one another.
Christ commanded us to love God and other people. When you cease to lack empathy for others you fail to follow Christ’s commands to love your neighbor and be a follower of His.