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Opinion | How to change a heritage of hate


Why are you so adamant about keeping Confederate symbols around? 

That’s the part of this debate that I have never been able to wrap my head around. Why are people in 2020 so fired up to keep these monuments and statues, and why do you want to fly that dumb flag? 

Oh, yes, I know it’s about “heritage,” but please, spare me. I’m a white male who grew up in the South. I’ve heard the conversations and listened to the arguments. And I know that the overwhelming majority of people flying that dumb flag — the one with the blue X, or “southern cross,” on a red background — haven’t the first clue about how that flag relates to their heritage. 

Hell, they don’t even know how that flag relates to basic history. Because if they did, they wouldn’t fly it and claim to be flying the “confederate flag.”

The Confederate states had three flags. None of them were what you commonly see referred to today as the “confederate flag.” 

The southern cross flag was actually the battle flag for southern armies fighting in Virginia and was the official flag of Robert E. Lee’s army. It was a popular flag during the Civil War, but it didn’t stand for the confederacy or for any of the states. 

Its current-day popularity stems from — you’ll be shocked by this — its use as a racist symbol by groups such as the KKK, starting in the 1940s. 

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Sort of undermines that whole “heritage not hate” argument, doesn’t it? 

But then, we’ve known for a long time that “heritage not hate” is an utter absurdity used by southerners who can’t say what they really want to say: That flying that flag and keeping those statues of traitors up on the courthouse square are a couple of the few remaining ways racists have left to show black Americans that they don’t matter. 

That their genuine pain and suffering elicits zero empathy. That their generations of mistreatment and degradation are meaningless. That their lives matter not at all. 

You know it’s true. Just admit it. 

Because nothing else makes sense. 

The statues and that flag aren’t teaching anyone history. They’re not marking historic battles or important events. They’re not magically creating bridges to the past so white people can better connect with their ancestors. 

They’re reminders to black people that they should know their place. 

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Most of the monuments weren’t erected in the days just after the Civil War. In fact, most of them weren’t put up until the early 1900s, when, it just so happened, the Segregation Era became the first real movement by white people to put an end to the significant gains black Americans had made in the post-Civil War world. 

During that time white people decided to put up a bunch of statues honoring the men who had fought to ensure blacks were kept as property. 

So black people would remember their place. 

This is what you’re fighting over. 

On one side is a group of American citizens — human beings who bleed and love and feel just like you — who are telling you that these symbols are hurtful and infuriating. And on the other side is a bunch of statues honoring men who have no business being honored and a flag that doesn’t represent what you think it does. 

How is this even choice? 

These symbols don’t honor the heritage of the South and they don’t, as some have argued, teach us lessons so we can learn from our past mistakes. 

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Learning from our past mistakes isn’t about statues and a flag. It’s equality and justice and empathy. It’s tearing down hurtful reminders of past mistakes. It’s understanding how honoring men who fought to continue the practice of slavery is hurtful to the decendants of those slaves — many of whom continue to be mistreated today. 

That’s real learning. 

And that would be a heritage worth honoring.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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