The Confederate Flag: Does it matter?

Does this flag bother you? Are you offended?

As a southerner, I have seen the Confederate Battle flag, also known as the Rebel flag and the Southern Cross, all my life. It was on t-shirts that read “It’s a southern thing, you wouldn’t understand” or “heritage, not hate.” I have seen it on just about everything including belt buckles, bathing suits, hat pins, do-rags, license plates, stickers, and flying proudly on the back of many pickup trucks. I have even owned a few Rebel flag items. It’s just been there. I never really thought much of it.

I grew up in a small town that played the metropolis to several even smaller towns. We had traffic lights, grocery stores, a university, and even a Wal-Mart. Our little, 3,000 resident speck in west-central Alabama was anything but forward-thinking, but it wasn’t a hotbed for racial tension either. That’s not to say racism didn’t exist. It did.

With the exception of city-wide events like the Muse’s Bazaar and the 4th of July fireworks, or some workplaces, most white people kept with white people and black people kept with black people (back then, there were no Latinos or Asians in town). Whether you were a black kid or a white kid, you learned from the adults in your social group. That meant white kids learned a lot from people who used the n-word as a universal term for all black people, and black kids learned from people who were used to saying a lot of “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to white folk and being referred to as the n-word universally.

As best as I could tell, however, the Confederate flag had nothing to do with racism. It was a part of the southern states and, to me-as a teen, represented pride in the South. Even now, I’m proud of and associate with a lot of “good” Southern things. But, I didn’t really know anything about the flag.

Turns out, the Rebel flag was never the actual flag of the Confederacy. Nope. The Confederate States of America had three flags during the Civil War, but the batle flag wasn’t one of them. The design was part of two of the Confederacy’s flags, but the flag commonly associated with the Confederacy was actually the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that it became so closely aligned with the Confederacy. It was used to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers at veteran’s events.

Flags of the CSA

In the 1940s, the flag began a resurgence. It was  a symbol of resistance and state’s rights. In 1956 it was placed prominently in a redesigned Georgia state flag. This was possibly (read probably) due to the recent desegregation of schools.

While many say the battle flag is a symbol of racism, that’s not necessarily the popular opinion — at least according to a 2011 Pew Research Center poll. That study found that 1 in 10 Americans feel positively about the battle flag and 3 of 10 feel negatively. That leaves 60% who don’t have a feeling either way. That poll also found that black people, Democrats, and the educated were most likely to feel negatively about the flag. I believe that says something about America and her citizens.

Really, though, it’s just a flag.

It’s also a Modern Life Discussion; people are talking about it. What are your thoughts?

Dan Fugate

Dan Fugate is marketing director for Blues Angel Music in Pensacola, Florida. He is also administrative director of the nonprofit foundation of the same name. Husband, father, and Cub Scout leader, Dan is also co-host of the Beer & Bros. podcast, an audio-only podcast where he and his brother-in-law drink beer and discuss the week's news.

  • Jason Anderson

    Being from Mississippi and that I now reside so far away from the South, the Rebel Flag just reminds me of Home. I’ve never associated it with hatred or racism, though I know a great deal of folks do. But most of them aren’t from the South. They wouldn’t and don’t care to understand the Southern heritage that so many of us grew up loving and proudly honoring. This isn’t just with a flag. It’s part of being Southern that just doesn’t exist anywhere else in the US that I’ve seen, and I’ve seen alot of it! Sweet tea, biscuits, fried okra, and the the Rebel Flag are all just another part of our southern heritage that is so misunderstood. Kind of like saying ‘yes mam’ to any woman north of the Mason Dixon. It’s just not appreciated.
    The South is slow, dumb and the rest of the US assumes. Thankfully, that’s not the case. We think before we speak, slowly. We have a great drawl that some assume means we’re uneducated, though almost almost all of my friends went to college and are gainfully employed, if not entreprneurs leading their sectors. There is racism, just like in every state I’ve ever lived in. Native Hawaiians don’t like outsiders, white people. California’s don’t like Mexicans. Philadelphians don’t really like anyone, despite being ‘The city of brotherly love’ and is quite possibly the most racist city I’ve ever experienced. It is Definitely the most reverse racist city I’ve ever been in!
    Thanks to groups like the KKK and other white supremacy groups, my flag is under attack. and it sucks. I don’t know that I’ve ever flown a Rebel flag, but I still loved it and the ‘home’ it represented for me.
    This subject is going to touch a hot spot with alot people and knee jerk reactions are going to cause more issues than are expected. We recently saw how the state of Mississippi came together, black and white, when the two Hattiesburg officers were shot. I hope and pray that a resolution can be made and all sides come to an understanding without trying to erase/rewrite history. It really bothers me that a flag I grew up loving is being desecrated, just as it does when then US flag is desecrated. I’m not the only one that is going to feel this way.
    I recently read a Facebook post from a friend of mine saying it was time to take it down, fold it up and put it in the closet…I’m not sure I agree with his sentiment.
    For the first time, I’m actually thinking of a tattoo in memoriam of the Rebel flag…maybe not.

    • Dan Fugate

      “The South is slow, dumb and the rest of the US assumes.” This is exactly why I am proud of everything positive that comes out of the south. It is rich with culture, history, music, movies, art. The South is where bar-b-cue, the blues, jazz, sweet tea, and a lot of great authors live.

      On Facebook, a friend pointed out that the man who designed the flag, William T. Thompson said “As
      a people we are fighting to maintain the heaven-ordained supremacy of
      the white man over the inferior or colored race…[this flag will be]
      emblematical of our cause…[the flag will be] hailed by the civilized
      world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.”

      Now, this is certainly damning. But, at the same time, it’s not. Icons, just like words, have meanings that evolve over time. To some people, including Mr. Thompson, the Rebel flag represents the white man’s supremacy over other races. To others, and I’d like to think a large majority, it is a symbol of pride in all things Southern. Good or bad, these things have made the South, and her people, who we are.

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