Confederate imagery isn’t ‘heritage,’ it’s preserving white supremacy
After white nationalists took to Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend to rally around a monument of Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the Confederate Army, the national discussion has once again turned to the issue of the Confederate flag and monuments erected to figures of the movement.
The white supremacist rally has sparked counter-protests across the country.
Some protestors have taken it upon themselves to remove the Confederate monuments that dot the country.
In Durham, North Carolina, protestors pulled down a monument honoring the Confederate soldiers of America.
— Derrick Lewis (@DerrickLewisTV) August 14, 2017
While some on the center-right see this as a “Jihadist-style desecration of history,” similar to ISIS, the protestors claim to be upending white supremacy.
All of this begs the question, why the fuck are there Confederate monuments in the United States of America?
Like, if you think about it on a very basic level, this was an enemy army that fought the bloodiest war in American history in order to maintain the right to enslave a race they saw as inferior.
The idea that the Civil War was fought over “states rights” or some other watered-down crackpot theory is utter bullshit.
Here is Alexander H. Stephens, Confederate Vice President, delivering his 1861 “Cornerstone Speech” about what his government believed in:
“Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition,”
That is the Confederacy in their own words. That is what the Confederate flag represents. That is what Confederate monuments honor. That is what the Confederacy was founded upon.
And many Southerners will say this is wrong. They will say the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol, that it’s a symbol of their culture and heritage.
But the Confederate flag had basically disappeared from memory in the decades after the Civil War, presumably because Americans don’t like losers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, “a nonprofit civil rights organization founded in 1971 and dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society” published a comprehensive study of the history of Confederate monuments in the United States of America.
The SPLC took on the study after Dylann Roof’s infamous murder of 9 African American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.
Roof often posed with Confederate imagery on his social media, and reignited the dialogue about what the Confederate flag really meant.
Republican Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley removed the flag from the South Carolina Capitol after Roof’s crimes.
The SPLC study reveals that there are 1,503 “symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces” in the United States of America.
Here’s a brief summary of some of the SPLC findings, which are innumerable:
– 718 monuments and statues, nearly 300 of which are in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina
– 80 counties and cities named for Confederates; 9 official Confederate holidays in six states; and 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates.
– Today, the state flags of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi still contain elements of the Confederate flag, with Mississippi’s being the most conspicuous.
– 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons; Of these 109 schools, 27 have student populations that are majority African-American, and 10 have African-American populations of over 90 percent. At least 39 of these schools were built or dedicated from 1950 to 1970, broadly encompassing the era of the modern civil rights movement.
That last piece of information is particularly fucked up, but also representative of the movement behind Confederate imagery.
Much of the Confederate iconography claimed as “a part of history” was erected during two specific periods, neither of which was particularly close to the actual Civil War.
One of these periods occurred during the first two decades of the 20th century when Jim Crow spread like wildfire throughout the Southern states; the second during the Civil Rights era when Confederate imagery was used by Southern whites opposing African American liberation.
The SPLC characterized these two periods when Confederate monuments appeared:
“The first began around 1900, amid the period in which states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise the newly freed African Americans and re-segregate society. This spike lasted well into the 1920s, a period that saw a dramatic resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, which had been born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. The second spike began in the early 1950s and lasted through the 1960s, as the civil rights movement led to a backlash among segregationists.”
Confederate monuments went up during the first two decades of the 20th century and during the Civil Rights era as an active symbol of white supremacy, not “heritage.”
This graphic (via @emayfarris) shows how late most Confederate monuments were put up.
Again, note the timing: Jim Crow & civil rights era. pic.twitter.com/ceDhXxdOD5
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) August 15, 2017
The Confederate flag also became popular in concordance with the monuments.
From the SPLC:
“It’s difficult to make the case today that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. After being used sparingly for decades, it began appearing frequently in the 1950s and 1960s as white Southerners resisted efforts to dismantle Jim Crow segregation. It began to fly over state capitols and city halls across the region. Elements of it were also incorporated into several state flags. Worst of all, it became a mainstay at Ku Klux Klan rallies as the organization launched a campaign of bombings, murders and other violence against African Americans and civil rights activists.
One specific example of Southern segregationists using the Confederate flag to signal white supremacy is the infamous George Wallace, Alabama governor, who raised the flag above the Capitol in 1963 declaring “segregation forever.”
This weekend we saw white nationalists carrying Confederate flags alongside swastikas. Although this is new, it’s not overly surprising.
The Confederate flag represents hate, racism, and white supremacy. As do the relics to the men who fought to preserve it.
And to those who say “you’re deleting history” or whatever that shitty argument is, why are we honoring the Confederacy in public spaces in America in 2017?
There isn’t really any nuance to this debate. Confederate monuments were erected in order to honor and symbolize the Confederacy. The Confederacy was founded upon the idea that “the negro is not equal to the white man” according to their Vice President.
Bring down each and every monument. One by one.