The Stars and Bars
The Confederate flag, also known as the stars and bars, dates back to the 1800’s, back when slavery was a major part of the United States; North and South disagreed about it. Civil war broke out in 1861 and the Confederate flag became the face of the south. Sure the flag represented a group of people that supported slavery, but it didn’t represent racism. The flag meant more than slavery. The Confederate flag represents southern pride. It is just like our flag today. The flag doesn’t stand for any certain thing, but instead it stands for freedom and pride of our nation. The Confederate flag should be “kept in those historical contexts where it belongs” (Bonner 295).
The flag used to be seen as “symbols of motivation and inspiration” (Bonner 295). People didn’t view it as a sign of slavery and rebellion like it could have easily been taken for. If you asked most people what the civil war was about, they most likely would tell you slavery. That was one of the most important things about the Civil War but that isn’t what the flag represents. In a short drive throughout the southern parts of the United States, you could see anywhere from a few to a plethora of Confederate Flags. Most if not all people that fly the flag are not racist at all. Out of the people fighting for the Confederate Army, “Most of the soldiers of the Confederacy did not own slaves and most thought they were fighting in an honorable cause to defend their native land” (Spencer 168).
Throughout the world people “imagine flag desecration as an act of violence not only a piece of cloth, but to the memory of soldiers who died defending their ‘colors’ from their country’s enemies” (Bonner 295). But what is desecration? Desecration is not just burning the flag or doing actual damage to it. Violating the flag, ruining it, and defilement are also considered desecration. By giving the flag a meaning of something other than it has, it would be desecrating it. The soldiers of the Confederacy didn’t fight for slavery; they fought for their land. They fought for their freedom. Confederate flags represent what they fought for. Today the American flag is just the same as the Confederate flag was back then. Americans view the flag in an entirely different perspective than other nations. Depending on what nation you’re from our flag has a different meaning. In the United States, the flag represents courage, unity, and liberty. Sounds like a great flag right? But in Pakistan, our flag has an entirely different connotation. The same piece of cloth represents tyranny, arrogance, and superiority. Both views of the same design could not be more different. The Stars and Bars is the same way. Most people from the South view the flag as a display of pride for their part of the country as opposed to the northerners who view it as a racist symbol. I believe that those who see the Confederate flag as a racist symbol are being as close minded as those that are in fact racist. By assuming something with no reasoning other than the fact that those people are from the south or are “rednecks” is an unfair judgment. And we all know that little saying about assuming things.
According to the dictionary, confederate means united in a league or alliance. The Confederacy had a flag with such meaning. They were unified and chose not to stand for the tyranny of the Union. Our flag today represents our freedom, and back then the Confederate flag represented their unity. When making decisions on what you believe the Stars and Bars stands for, you should take into consideration all of the facts not just the most obvious. When most people think of southerners, they usually think of “rednecks”. But isn’t stereotyping people of the south and calling them “rednecks” just as bad as calling someone a derogatory name? Those people would mostly be the ones considered to fly the Stars and Bars with pride. Most of the people that would be categorized in this view that I know also listen to rap music. Not something you would guess by looking at them. We often create false stereotypes in our heads because it is easier then learning more and discovering the truth. This is said about people as well as objects such as the subject were discussing right now. This is why the stereotype of the Confederate flag is so prevalent. The most commonly known fact about the Civil War would be that it was a dispute over slavery for the most part. Based on this fact alone, the Confederate flag is a victim of false accusations. An example would be like a simple math problem. If you have an equation that says x squared equals four, would you not automatically assume that the answer is two? You don’t always think that the other possible answer is negative two. Sure the most obvious response would be to say that the Confederate flag represents slavery and racism when in all actuality it does not.
When looking from the outside in, it is a completely different perspective. From the North to the South, there is almost like a screen that prevents the true meaning from being displayed. A two-hundred year long fog has been blocking the truth from being revealed. It seems to me that out of the people that view the flag as a racist symbol, the majority of them are from the North. In the South, the Confederate Flag is part of our culture. Thus, we are used to the flag and see it many times without it being associated to racism in any way. That truth is what the true meaning of the Stars and Bars is. What something means in the terms of a symbol can only be determined by each individual. There is no right or wrong answer but I see no reason to view the confederate flag as a racist symbol.
Those that oppose my opinion might suggest that this represents racism. I do agree that the flag represented a group of people that supported racism, but in no way represents it itself. In isolated cases, there may be circumstances where an extremist group or individual use the flag when committing terrible acts. Just because someone uses it in that way, that doesn’t mean it’s meant for that. A radical could just as easily do an act of terrorism and fly a Chinese flag. Now based on the situation, you might assume that the Chinese are responsible for the act but it is in fact not even connected to it. Without proper research you wouldn’t be able to distinguish whether or not the two are actually connected. The same thing is true for the Confederate flag. It would be unjust to the flag and the meaning of the flag to assume that it was a racist symbol. Just like any other situation, it deserves to be researched before coming to an unwarranted opinion.
Another thing someone might say that disagrees with me would be that “flying a Confederate battle flag is an unacceptable absurdity” (Garrett 72). This would be an unjust statement to put forth. If the Stars and Bars were not permitted to be flown, it would be unfair to the American people. By not allowing the flag to be flown, it would be also like no allowing another country’s flag to be flown. It would be against the people’s constitutional rights to display their pride of the South. As most Americans know, the first amendment of the Constitution gives people the right to freedom of religion, speech, and expression. By denying people the right to fly the confederate flag, it would undeniably go against that right.
Tina McElroy Ansa identifies herself as “an African-American female, author, feminist, and as a ‘Southerner’” (Ansa 5). She doesn’t view herself as a Southerner because of what happened in the past. The past of the South would suggest that only white males were true Southerners that represent the region. Ansa says that “I am not putting my southerness on hold waiting for that time. Being a Southerner is not tied to someone else’s timetable. Being a Southerner is timeless” (Ansa 7). Despite the events of the past, the flag still represents being a southerner to her. She says to those that oppose her; “Am I to give all that up because of a rag of cloth, no matter what it recalls, invokes, and inspires” (Ansa 7). This shows that she is able to look past what happened and not just connect the flag with the actions of the past. It means something else to her and is a positive thing.
“After careful thought, I realize the flag is more than fabric-and not the kind of fabric that weaves our society together. It represents different ideas and concepts to different people” (Knoebel 111). Knoebel was taught that the flag was the symbol of the Confederacy. He contemplates the different views of the flag. “Many view the flag as a source of pride” but on the other end of the spectrum, “the same flag is a symbol of enslavement” (Knoebel 111). The flag means different things to different people. It is a symbol that can be disputed for ages to come.
All in all, the Confederate flag, The Stars and Bars, or whatever you want to call it represents a plethora of things to many different people. “What it may mean to others is these days as delicate and dangerous (and proverbial) as a footpath through a mine field” (Garrett 72). To say it represents racism would be unjust to the flag and the people of the past. It represents their southern pride. Our nation today is filled to the top with pride. Whether it’s for sports teams, or where you’re from people have an immense sense of pride. The Stars and Bars represents the South because of the pride, not the past events. Terrible things happened in the south but that should not distort the view of the flag. It is the pride in flag that continues to keep the flag alive throughout the nation and why they are still flown today.
Bonner, Robert E. "Flag Culture and the Consolidation of Confederate Nationalism." Journal of Southern History 68.2 (2002): 293-332. Print.
Garrett, George. "Stars and Bars: A Confederate Collage." Callaloo 24.1 (2001): 71-76. Print.
Knoebel, Michelle. "It's Just a Flag, Isn't It?" Callaloo 24.1 (2001): 108-12. Print.
McElroy Ansa, Tina. "What's the Confederate Flag Got to Do with It?" Callaloo 24.1 (2001): 5-7. Print.
Spencer, Elizabeth. "Some Notes on the Confederate Flag." Callaloo 24.1 (2001): 168-68. Print.
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