Judging by some of the e-mail we have received, our Executive Editor, Walter Fields, must have hit a raw nerve when he criticized the family of deceased soldier Michael Yates for standing in front of a Confederate flag during a news conference about their son. For the most part, the comments seek to justify the Confederate flag by casting it as a banner of defiance against tyranny and dismissing any notion that it was symbolic of racist institutions – slavery and Jim Crow – rooted in the dehumanization of Black people. One responder had the gall to suggest that slaves were better off than industrial workers in the North were.
These comments are just further proof that many Americans, mostly white and many in southern states, continue to be in denial. There is no justification for the continued embrace of the Confederate flag. It is a heinous and treasonous symbol of one of this nation’s darkest moments. It has no legitimacy in 21st century America and its blood stained history should earn it scorn. Yes, sometimes the truth hurts. The truth of the matter is that the southern states that seceded committed an act of treason against the United States. Yes, the “War of the States” was about state’s rights; whether the Confederacy, by act of war, would have the right to maintain slavery, aptly called the “peculiar institution.” To sugar coat what really occurred is to proffer a bold-faced lie.
There is a reason the capital of our country is in Washington, DC and not Richmond, Virginia. The south lost the war. When will these people get a clue? Probably never. However, if they came out of their mental caves long enough they will notice that the Confederate flag does not fly over any building or installation of our federal government. That flag is not present on any of our government documents or adorned on any military apparel. Nor is the Confederate flag recognized by any foreign nation, friend or foe. There is only one legitimate national flag, the stars and stripes that represent the United States of America.
Spare us the lecture on “southern culture” too and the defense of Confederate soldiers. Yes, they were fighting for a cause, one that was in direct contradiction with the Constitution of the United States. So forgive us if we do not shed any tears for soldiers who maimed and killed to preserve a way of life that subjected Blacks to treatment the equivalent of animals. We hate to break the news to our detractors. Slavery was a violent and murderous institution that had no redeeming quality but only served to perpetuate white supremacy. You can attempt to sugar coat that fact or stay in a state of denial. That is certainly your choice. For our part, we choose to challenge and confront Confederate sympathizers every chance we get.
To suggest that slavery was not as bad as we know it was, or good by comparison to other conditions of degradation, is the ultimate act of arrogance. As is to suggest that there was something honorable in the Confederate cause. We have grown tired of the tired excuses. It is time we confront this “resistance” movement with the force of the moral equivalent of the Union cause. So long as we remain silent or indifferent to every symbol of our nation’s racist past and present, we will contribute to the further marginalization of Black people. The Confederate flag has no place on state government buildings or flags, and even as a backdrop for a grieving family.
Do we simply ignore this symbol of hate because a grieving family is its apparent supporter? We think not. We are more than capable of doing two things at once: expressing our sympathy for the Yates family and calling into question their apparent embrace of the Confederate flag. Given that the flag offends millions of Black Americans, and many whites, we will not overlook it or accept it as the “private” choice of the family as some of our critics suggested. Not in this lifetime.
Our aim is simple. To have the Confederate flag dispensed from our national consciousness. Plain and simple. There is no place for it, among the living or the dead, and particularly among those who are in the Armed Forces. If we are truly the United States there must be one flag, one nation, one cause.