Thursday, July 2, 2015

Debate Over the Confederacy Distracts From the Better Conversation

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The ubiquitousness of the Confederate flag in the southern United States--and monuments to the Confederacy in various forms--is a problem.

Part of this problem stems from the fact that the South has lied about why it went to war since almost immediately after the war ended. This was made possible in part because the South was a vital and vocal voting block in the US. It's why FDR, in drafting the New Deal, specifically made changes that would prevent black people from gaining any of the benefits, while protecting things that were of interest to the South.

There are some facts that should not be up for debate: 1) the South seceded because of growing abolitionist support in the North, 2) the Civil War was, in a large part, about slavery, 3) the Confederate flag symbolizes racism and slavery because that is what the South stood for at the time. That was, literally, the hill the South was willing to die on, 4) that symbolic meaning did not change with time and distance from the Civil War since the reemergence of the flag was in response and a backlash to the growing support of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's.

It's the last part I want to address somewhat. The backlash to the Civil Rights movement included not just white supremacists bringing the Confederate flag back, but it spurned many Confederate monuments being constructed all over the South.

These are facts. They should not be debated. This is what happened.

What's especially frustrating about the miseducation, misinformation, and willful misunderstanding of these facts is how it ensures we keep having to go through this conversation again and again--the debate about facts that should already be established.

This prevents us from the much more interesting and much more useful conversation:

What do we DO with all of this Confederate memorabilia? Should state governments fly the Confederate flag? Should they still feature monuments to Confederate soldiers, victories, and other similar things? If not, what should we DO with them? After all, they already exist. Do we get rid of them en masse? Is that basically sweeping our Confederate wanking under the rug so we can play dumb about it later? Should we add plaques to the monuments providing context to them?

This, in my opinion, is the much more interesting conversation. But it would require accepting that the South has done and been party to some horrible things in the past. And there are far too many people that are still unwilling to do that.