Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

Furman University's Student Newspaper

The Paladin

The Confederate Flag: Giving Blacks the Finger

The Confederate flag is a racially charged, deeply offensive symbol that should not be glorified or esteemed.
Courtesy of Furman Athletics

I encounter the image of the Confederate flag everyday. It is usually paired with a cheeky saying “Southern pride” or “screw you if you don’t like it.” The claim is that those who are offended by the image do not fully understand its history. Furthermore, the people who are offended have no real ownership of that history. For the sake of this argument, I will draw comparisons between the symbolism of the Nazi swastika and the Confederate flag. I am hesitant to make this comparison because it is the standard argument people use when they have run out of intelligent things to say. However, I do feel that there are valid parallels between these particular images and the common narrative of oppressed peoples.

Imagine that you are a Jewish person living in present-day Germany. You, your family, and many of your friends are descendants of Holocaust survivors. All around you are images of the Nazi swastika. In your classes, you may sit next to someone who is wearing it on his t-shirt. When you are driving you see vehicles displaying the Nazi flag alongside phrases like “German pride” or “If you’re offended by this flag, you’re an idiot.” Imagine that the flag is flown on government buildings. There are other official flags with less-than-subtle references to the swastika. You see it at sporting events. There are prominent political figures who publicly champion it and dismiss or mock people who are upset by it.

When you ask people why they choose to display the flag, they tell you, “It is part of my heritage. Nazism really wasn’t about race. It was about fixing economic problems and standing up for what you believe in.” People are proud to be related to high ranking Nazi officers.

When you challenge these views, you are told that you do not fully understand because it is not really a part of your history. No one waves the swastika and then gives the finger to Jewish people. However, it is exactly what happens with the Confederate flag and black people.

Let us be clear that the association of this image with racism is not one of coincidence. To say that the Civil War and the politics thereafter were about states’ rights and fighting intrusive government is equivalent to saying that the Holocaust was the sensible social and economic policy of the Third Reich. Images of the Confederate flag are meant to be antagonistic. They are meant to be in-your-face challenges about race.

Interestingly, many of the people who display the flag do not consider themselves racists. But if your politics and social views solidify racial norms or support the marginalization of minorities, does it matter if you call yourself a racist?

The most prevalent and sinister racism no longer occurs in Klan meetings. It occurs in voting booths. It happens when resumes with names that are “too ethnic” are thrown in the trash. It happens when politicians say welfare, lazy, and urban when they mean black. It happens when a culture allows Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh to be millionaires. To distinguish between being a racist and having views or politics that enforce the racial structure is to say, “Yes, Officer, I did burn down those houses, but I would prefer not to call it arson.”

For us, the issue of the Confederate flag is particularly relevant. Recently, there has been an re-emergence of racial politics. There have been widespread attempts at minority voter suppression, laws that allow police officers to search anyone that “looks like” an illegal immigrant, and a return to some of the most blatant race-baiting in years. The Supreme Court is at this moment considering eliminating the Voter Rights Act of 1965. The propagation of symbols like the Confederate flag is a symptom pointing toward a larger problem.

Racism is not a dinosaur that became extinct millions of years ago. My mother’s birth certificate says she is colored. My grandfather served in the military but could not sit in a restaurant after he completed his service. His great-grandfather was a slave. The Nazis and the Confederates lost. We should start acting like it.

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