The Confederate Flag is controversial to say the least. Discerning what the Confederate Flag actually symbolizes is as complex as discerning what the Civil War meant and means to Americans in the past and present. In short: it’s complicated!
The Confederate flag can represent many different things to many people. This is true for all symbols, but especially this particular one because it has flown under different contexts for over 100 years, but, in my opinion, for Christians the question of flying it or not isn’t “Should I be allowed to?” but instead “What is considerate? What is loving to others?”
There Is Nothing Wrong with Southern Heritage
To many living in the South, the Confederate Flag simply represents this: being proud of the South. Being proud of your heritage, your family, what the South stands for.
And there is nothing wrong with being proud of your cultural identity. There is nothing wrong with the feeling of safety one gets when they’re rooted in their family’s history and legacy. Traditions can be very good.
I know that for many Southerners, this flag is simply a symbol of that pride, safety, and family legacy. That’s all they see. However….
There’s Also No Way around The Flag’s Racist History
Because this racist history deeply affects our country today African American's opportunities, wealth, justice, prestige, and trauma the history surrounding this flag cannot be ignored. The association of the Confederate Flag with racist ideals is well-documented.
Here are a few quick facts.
The Confederate Flag as we know it today was the Confederacy’s Battle Flag. The second national flag of the Confederacy featured the Battle Flag design surrounded by whiteness. Supporters of the flags design agreed with newspaper editor William T. Thompson's comment in 1863, “As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.”
In 1875 in Charleston, South Carolina, members of the Carolina Rifle Club of Charleston participated in a statewide white-supremacist campaign that included voter intimidation, ballot box stuffing and terrorism. They marched behind the Confederate Flag as they made efforts to stop black people from voting
In 1948, the Dixiecrat Party used the Confederate Flag to represent themselves. Their platform stood for “… the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race,” and the party opposed “the elimination of segregation,” “social equality” and “the repeal of miscegenation statutes.”
In 1963, the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, flew the Confederate flag in defiance of President Kennedy’s calls for integration. The flag was not a part of pop culture until it resurged during this time, becoming a widespread symbol of white people that were opposed to the Civil Rights Movement.
What I and My African-American Brothers and Sisters Feel When We See the Confederate Flag
The flag brings hurt that the South's history is largely rooted in our oppression.
The flag brings feelings of inadequacy and intimidation.
The flag is a reminder of the oppression black people have experienced in America since 1619 and certainly to this day through police brutality, redlining, and discrimination.
It’s a reminder that there are people out there, and have been throughout our nation’s history, that hate us just because of the color of our skin.
There are years and years of evidence that at least some of those who tout this symbol hate out very being and believe we are subhuman?
Maybe, in a perfect world, we could all read each other’s hearts like Jesus could and we’d be able to discern immediately if someone was flying the flag out of sinful racism or out of whole family pride. That would be nice. It would also be nice if I could see someone with a Confederate Flag and not jump to the conclusion that they are a racist. But, given the undeniable racist history of the symbol and how it has been used, can you really blame me?