I have been watching and listening with interest to the conversation surrounding the Confederate flag. Whites (and some blacks) who want to keep the flag on the grounds of the State Capitol keep talking about the flag representing their heritage, and they say that heritage is about the bravery of the Confederate sons who died defending the Confederacy and what it stood for.
It stood for slavery and for hatred of black people. The heritage which so many are trying to preserve was based on and infused throughout with, hatred.
The heritage of the Confederate South was based on its refusal to let go of the “right” to own black people. The heritage held that “negroes” were the property of white people, and could thus be treated in any way the master saw fit. The heritage included the need for the white supremacist South to hold onto and to increase its number of slaves so that the economy of the South could continue to flourish. The heritage and the subsequent fight was about the right to own slaves, and about preserving the inequality between white and black people.
The heritage which so many want to preserve and remember included lynching black people for nothing, for crimes of which they were accused but which they had not committed. The heritage was about raping black slave women while putting out the “word” that black men were raping their women. The heritage was about ripping black families apart, ignoring the screams and wails of mothers as their children were ripped from their arms; it was about splitting apart black husbands and wives.
The heritage was about making it illegal for blacks to learn to read and write; it was about allowing black children to go only so far in school, because their owners wanted them in the fields, making them money. The heritage was about using all-white juries to convict black people of crimes, about keeping silent when a black person was accused of a crime that everyone knew had been committed by a white person. The heritage was about white law enforcement officers either staying quiet about a lynching, or taking part in the lynching …or both. The heritage was about a federal government which did little to protect African-Americans, about a United States Supreme Court which did more to squelch the rights of black people than to increase and protect them.
The heritage was about white people doing what they did to black people because they did not consider black people to be fully human. Indeed, Charles Carroll wrote a book which was a favorite back then, The Negro, a Beast.” The heritage was about using the Bible to justify racist beliefs and practices; the heritage, in effect, used God’s name in vain.
This heritage had no compassion, no conscience, no desire for noble and, dare I say it, Christian behavior for or toward black people. This heritage was marked by narcissism, seeking to protect the interests of a people called white, who elevated themselves to have dominion over any people they wanted.
This heritage allowed black people to be lynched, allowed white mobs to storm jails and drag blacks accused of crimes out, only to take justice into their own hands. This heritage had no mercy, no love, no human decency.
So, yes, that flag represents heritage …but that heritage is one of hatred and degradation of a people.
That, my dear friends, is what you are talking about when you talk about “heritage.” Your ancestors fought that war and died …to perpetuate inhuman treatment of one people by another.
Tell the story…hold onto your heritage, but do it in a museum. Remember your heritage in private and don’t make those whom your ancestors died to keep enslaved and degraded, have to look at and remember that heritage on a daily basis.
It is only right that the flag come down. Heritage defined, and that heritage notwithstanding.
A candid observation …