When you try to defend your Confederate battle flag at Florida’s Daytona International Speedway this weekend, you came off looking dumb, and more than a little racist around the edges.
I, too, was taught — until I was in high school, that is — that the Civil War was all about states’ rights, but that lesson doesn’t walk history back far enough. The states rights issue sprang from the desire of southern states to hang onto their slaves. The bodies of those generations of enslaved people formed foundation of a slave economy from which both sides of the argument benefited. Multiple legislative attempts to shrink the institution of slavery were continually met with a solid wall of opposition, but there was disgust for the institution from the beginning, and not just from the church folk. In fact, some church folk were the most vocal supporters of slavery, cherry-picking verses the way their descendants continue to do.
Yet we still see the Confederate flag, waving. In light of a church massacre in which nine African Americans were killed by a suspect spouting white supremacist horseshit, NASCAR recently asked its fans to lower the battle flag. Golfer Bubba Watson has said he’ll paint over the flag on his General Lee, the car from the “Dukes of Hazzard” television show (which was, let’s face it, a dumb show).
If that flag represents heritage, then let’s acknowledge that it represents a heritage that isn’t about Southern pride, or the South rising again. It’s about people owning people, as did four of our first five presidents. (Read the ideology of one hold-out, the Founding Father Who Didn’t Own People, here.)
It’s not political correctness to lower the flag. It’s acknowledging that the Lost Cause should have been lost, and all its remnants folded away — or placed in a museum, where we could honestly discuss their symbolism.
I’m (finally) reading “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.” As difficult a read as it is, I cannot recommend it enough. Read it. And weep. And then let’s shift the discussion to how that damn institution continues to affect us, all of us.