A Confederate Contradiction

As many people throughout the United States and the world are still coming to grips and realizing that all Black men are not out to get them (however you choose to read that is correct) and what was once thought to be a fact of life and insurmountable for one to consider has been proven wrong by the presidency of Barack Obama.

Today Blacks are forced to embrace this reality as well as Whites and all other races and cultures. I am not as bad as some say that I am and not as good as I believe I am is what many men & women privately confess to themselves. The contradictions are being revealed and the realities are difficult to honestly dispute.

Now it’s rare that I talk about many regional controversial issues like the one that surrounds the Confederate Flag. This is especially true being from the American South where you can easily find this flag. I just want to offer my thoughts, ideas and suggestions about another reality that is controversial for many, the Confederate Flag.

I understand that there are certain groups of people who will find this to be a sensitive subject. Without any assumptions I ask everyone to approach the subject without any preconceived bias, connection or allegiances. To honestly address certain issues with a controversial history with sincerity you must approach it with an open mind.

To reiterate a previous statement I must repeat it to make myself clear. I’m not suggesting that I have the answer to the dispute. I only offer an alternate point-of-view with hopes that it may lead to a consensus regarding the controversy and contradictions of the Confederate flag.

What moved me to bring up the subject of the Confederate flag?

In a previous post titled “The Tale of Forrest Park” I discuss a park in Memphis, Tennessee called Forrest Park that was approved to be placed on the National Historic Sites registry. The Forrest Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans submitted the nomination to the National Park Service in what I like to call a Blagojevich move. I actually admire the move, because it’s legal and shrewd at the same time. Regardless of how some like or dislike the move it was perfectly legal.

The history of the Confederate flag is one that claims heritage and hatred, but to the surprise of both parties I have a different position for each side to consider when thinking about this symbol of history.

For those who may not know this history may be wondering how Nathan Forrest and the Confederate Flag relates?

Well the short answer is that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. You often find the reverence towards this flag given by those who revere Nathan Forrest. It’s hard to separate Nathan Forrest from the Confederate Flag and Nathan Forrest from the KKK and the Klan to the Confederate Flag and the Flag to the Civil War. If you want to go into detail about what all the Civil War was about you may find more resources and reasons for these relationships.

In Nashville there’s a roadside memorial to Nathan Forrest on a horse surrounded by Confederate Flags on I-24 between the Old Hickory Blvd exit of Brentwood and Harding Place in Nashville. At some point each week I pass this ‘exhibit or tribute’ if I decide to take that route home.

Now when this memorial was unveiled years ago it was offensive to me and many others of all races and backgrounds. It represented a symbol of hate, domestic terrorism and discrimination, but when I came into contact with some people who proudly displayed the flag and looked at it as a symbol of their heritage I was confused. How could this flag be a source of high regard with such a sorted history? Back when the terror level was raised to White for the white sheets and members of Homeland Security worn them this flag was often used in their operations or should I say misused. This is the confederate contradiction.

It’s about heritage not hate some claim and that may have been the intended purpose, but it’s hard to dispute the misintended use of this flag as the symbol of choice for those who perpetrated acts of domestic violence years ago and those unreported cases of today.

But today something has changed within me when I see this flag. It does not bother me anymore. It just makes me smile and sometimes chuckle to myself. I smile not out of any respect or disrespect towards the Confederate Flag, but the contradiction and symbolism.

I like how the cartoonist Walt Handelsman illustrated this ongoing confederate controversy or contradiction.

Now I’m not saying that I have the answer to the dispute, but an alternate point-of-view that may lead to a consensus regarding the Confederate flag.

I smile because I know that we  all have overcome. Not just Black people, but White, Latino, Asian and Native Americans have overcome. Yes there’s still a racial divide, but no longer does a man on a horse, a coward covering his face with a white sheet or even a flag with a meaning attached of pride and southern heritage or a meaning of hate and fear can divide us.

These things can’t bother me anymore because it doesn’t govern me and is proven to be wrong regardless how you slice it.

Although I understand and can relate to the hatred that some may have towards the confederate flag I choose not to go that route, because the flag has two meanings applied to it. One of hate and one of heritage. Regardless of how I look at it the flag is what it is, a symbol. The symbol itself is not evil or bad, but the meaning applied to that symbol and how it’s interrupted is the issue.

It’s a symbol of regional pride and heritage for some whose family members fought, sacrificed and died in the Civil War. It’s a symbol of hate and fear for some whose family members died at the hands of those who upheld the flag in reverence. Now we can go into detail of the root of the matter of why the North & South were fighting and how that relates to the other meaning of the symbol, but that gets I save the American history lesson for another day.

The point is that this is not a battle for Non-White people to be fighting, because Non-Whites did not hijack the meaning of the Confederate Flag. This is a fight for within the Southern White community and those who reverence the Confederate Flag. The debate is with those who value it to properly reconcile its meaning with those who continue to misused and misrepresented its meaning. The damage is done, now is the time to stop fighting about and over it and reconcile our difference and participate in the union of uniting the state of America.

References & Inspirations
NPR: Weekend Edition Saturday – 02/12/00 “Confederate Flag

7 thoughts on “A Confederate Contradiction

  1. Another thought provoking post, Tim. You are absolutely right when you shared that this topic is sensitive/explosive and that’s even without being set afire (riding upon the highways of America one may encounter a truck here and there with this controversial symbol mounted proudly for display; so, one could imagine what would happen if the driver displaying these colors accidently took a wrong exit and ended up in the wrong section of Harlem, NY, Watts, etc.)

    Without downplaying its symbolic history and/or the struggle of the many people who had to deal with this constant reminder on a daily basis that implied/imply some ugly untruths, it would be interesting to determine how many of these modern-day individuals displaying these colors are simply displaying it for attention or as a symbol of rebellion as oppose to hatred of another people/race.

    I would like to think that there is a percentage of people today who may display this image, but would nevertheless come to the aid of a minority stranded upon the highway with a flat tire, because, ultimately, Tim, I believe the deep inner layers of the human spirit can supercede/overcome skin color given the right circumstances. Not all Black men who strongly support Black causes only are prejudice against their White brethen; and, conversely, not all Whites who may or may not display this controversial image hate minorities either.

    Where minorities pay their taxes like everyone else, it may be fair to remove this image from state capitals (after a democratic vote, of course); however, we should never infringe upon the rights of individuals in those states who choose to display this flag on their own property. With that said, let me make clear that my initial statement about the wrong section of Harlem and/or Watts has little to do with the skin-color of Black men in general, it was simply wriiten to illustrate, Tim, that there are pockets of resistance on both sides of tolerance issue, but the majority of people, White and/or Black, see one race sir–the human race.

    Have a wonderful day. Enjoy a safe and relaxing weekend should our paths not cross again until next week.

    1. What’s up Al. Thanks for reading and commenting on this one. Maybe one day we’ll get to meet and have lunch or dinner.

      I actually don’t have an issue with the symbol. Maybe because I see it on t-shirts, bumper stickers and many other items every week I’ve grown use to it. It’s just when people on both sides don’t know why they’re upset with each other over a symbol is what bothers me. There’s plenty of symbols out there for all of us to be upset over.

      The confederate flag to me isn’t a fight for me to fight or even be upset over. It represents two things, the good and the bad, just like many other symbols beloved by multiple communities.

      Well I hope you like the one coming up tomorrow.

  2. Hi Tim. I am a southern Black woman and the confederate flag doesn’t bother me. To me it represents oppression and terrorism and when it is displayed today, it is a reminder of the past which should not be forgotten. White people who say it is part of their heritage doesn’t seem to realize that it is also part of my heritage because of how my ancestors were treated by people who waved it. And they don’t consider that my foreparents had heritage stripped from them — name, culture, family, religion, freedom, and life — by some of the very ones who went to war to try to maintain their freedom from the north, while still denying freedom for my ancestors. Those who claim that flag was not meant as a symbol of hate should have spoken out against it being used and forever tarnished by terrorist. There are still major “race” issues, but on the most part, attitudes are changing on both sides with the realization that we have enemies that see all of us as Americans and don’t care what the skin-tone.

  3. Salty
    “White people who say it is part of their heritage doesn’t seem to realize that it is also part of my heritage because of how my ancestors were treated by people who waved it. And they don’t consider that my foreparents had heritage stripped from them — name, culture, family, religion, freedom, and life — by some of the very ones who went to war to try to maintain their freedom from the north, while still denying freedom for my ancestors.”

    African Slavery had a much longer and deeper history under the flags of the United States, Britain, France, Spain, &etc., than the short-lived Confederacy. It seems that the Confederate flag is being used as the scapegoat to cover the stains on those other flags.

  4. There were thousands of Black soldiers that fought and died for the Confederacy, what do their descendants think? They have more in common with the average Southerner.

    If you don’t believe me, look at this link in a Union newspaper from 1863 that has a picture of Black Confederate troops in Uniform.


    1. Hello Jim. First thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, I do believe you. Black soldiers did fight and die in the Civil War on both sides. Recently, President Obama honored the Confederate Soldiers, but that’s not what you’re talking about.

      The contradiction is with the people who has distorted the original meaning and purpose of the confederate flag. My point was to point out that primarily southern Blacks & Whites who are at odds regarding the Confederate flag are not on the same page. Many Whites see it as heritage of the confederacy. Many Blacks see it as a symbol of hate. That’s the confusion and the contradiction. One sees the Confederate flag and remembers being terrorized by men in white robes and hoods often there to kill or intimidating them. The other sees the Confederate flag and remembers the troops who fought and died during some horrible battles of war.

      That is the basic point I wanted to point out. We, meaning both Blacks & Whites often fail to consider each others point-of-views, especially when it comes to race. I honestly try to help people better understand each other. I knew that some would view my post as just another Black guy bashing the Confederate flag, but I knew that there would be some people like yourself who actually get it and understand the point being made. Perhaps I can revisit this post some point soon and go further into the issue of the Confederate flag, but I try to illustrate the role Blacks played in and during the Civil War.

      Personally, I think it’s a big miscommunication and understanding combined with the misrepresentation and use of the Confederate flag. I believe both groups have fallen prey to this and retreated to our corners of comfort instead of a conversation, like the one we’re having now. So I thank you Jim. You’re going make me be friends with you if you don’t watch out. 😀

      Hope to talk to you later.

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