2015-06-25 – When folks folks tell me they don’t mean anything racist when they display the Confederate flag, I believe them. Some of the time.
There’s no doubt about the history of the flag, of course. It is a banner of slavery and white supremacy. But there are people who who display the flag simply to say “fuck you!” and there’s nothing more to it. They’re not racists. They’re not white supremacists. They just hate you and they’ve embraced a hateful symbol to say,”you’re not the boss of me.”
They don’t care if you think they are racist because they don’t care what you think. Or, if they care at all they are pretty happy to have you seething with rage and unable to do anything about it.
Admittedly, this doesn’t paint a pretty picture of folks who fly the Confederate flag. Either they are white supremacist or they are equal opportunity haters.
Or are they really equal opportunity haters? Or do they just hate you if you’re not a member of their team?
Now, when I mentioned the history of the Confederate flag, I’d suggest that you read What This Cruel War Was Over by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic. It pretty much lays to rest any idea that the Confederacy and its banner existed for any purpose other than to enslave Africans on the basis of white supremacy. I’m not going to rehash that discussion. Coates did a pretty good job of it.
But there was an interesting quote in the article that I think is worth considering. It is the “Cotton Is King” speech by James Henry Hammond, who was Governor of South Carolina in the 1840s and U.S. Senator from that state in the years leading up to the Civil War. Here is what he had to say:
The difference between us [and you in the North) is, that our slaves are hired for life and well compensated; there is no starvation, no begging, no want of employment among our people, and not too much employment either. Yours are hired by the day, not cared for, and scantily compensated, which may be proved in the most painful manner, at any hour in any street of your large towns. Why, you meet more beggars in one day, in any single street of the city of New York, than you would meet in a lifetime in the whole South.
Hammond goes on to tell us what a favor the South did for African Americans by enslaving them. Pure nonsense as is his praise here for the condition of slaves in the South. But I want to focus on his comments about the state of labor in the North. It may not have been as brutal as slavery was in the South . . . but it wasn’t a walk in the park either.
Either system is lovely for the 1%.
So . . . we’ve gotten rid of slavery, but we still have the Northern system. It could make a person angry. It could make a person want to display that anger . . . by wearing a Confederate flag.
I’m not saying that it’s a good idea. It’s not. But if you know where the feelings are coming from . . .
Unfortunately, when you poke someone in the eye, they can’t see. Flying a Confederate flag is a poke in the eye.