Confederate Flag In South Carolina Essay, Research Paper
The Confederate flag that now flies atop the statehouse of South Carolina has been a controversial issue for over 30 years. Raised in 1962 to commemorate the Civil War?s 100th anniversary, it is the only Confederate flag to wave atop any state capitol in the country, and its presence has stirred quite a commotion. Last March, a group that wants the South to secede from the United States staged a Confederate flag-waving rally in Montgomery, Alabama. Hundreds of people signed petitions, demanding that the state follow South Carolina?s example and return the Confederate flag to the state capitol. In April, a march against the flag?s presence was led by Charleston Mayor Riley. Six hundred flag opponents marched to the statehouse to have the flag taken down. The NAACP has staged a national boycott of tourism in South Carolina, which is supposed to last until the flag is removed.
The issue of whether the flag belongs at the South Carolina state capitol has been distorted by many people. This simple matter has been transformed into a freedom of expression controversy, which it certainly isn?t. This is an issue of appropriateness. Were the subject not so manipulated, it would be very obvious that the flag belongs in a museum, or a Civil War memorial, and not waving at any State Capitol.
On Michelle?s first morning at a college dormitory, she discovered a fellow student had hung a Confederate flag on his window, which was directly across from hers. As an African American, descended from slaves, Michelle was extremely offended by the sight. She considered it symbolic of slavery and the oppression of her ancestors. She took up the issue with the college administration, and asked for the flag to be taken down. Administration refused, citing the student?s freedom of expression as support for this decision. Frustrated, Michelle bought and hung a swastika flag outside her own window. The college promptly asked both students to take their flags down.
Why was the public display of a Confederate flag initially acceptable, and not the swastika? Both symbols have been used to represent hatred; the swastika by the German Nazis, the Confederate flag by white supremist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan. Many Southerners have been angered by the comparison between the swastika and the Battle Flag. All 124 defenders of the Confederate flag who debate with flag opponents on the American History Forum express and intolerance for equating the Nazi flag with the Confederate?s. Adolf Hitler?s ?Final Solution? was extermination and genocide; slavery was oppression. Supposedly, there is a great difference. To many people opposed to the flag, however, the comparison is a very valid one. Said W.T. Block, historian and author, ?Only last month? 10 Ku Klux Klansmen, demonstrating in an Indiana town [were] proudly displaying the Confederate flag as their symbol of hate.? He says the Nazi swastika ?could be flying over the capitol in Washington, D.C., if many thousands of Americans had not died to prevent it.? Fortunately, both the Confederacy and Nazi Germany were defeated. Neither flag should wave proudly, to represent any state.
The main argument of the insistent Confederate flag supporters is that the flag honors South Carolinian heritage. That is false; the flag honors only the soldiers who believed in the Confederacy and fought in the Civil War. Most of those soldiers were white. Many of the blacks who fought for the Confederacy did so because they were slaves and had no choice. According to a 1998 census from the South Carolina Office of Public Health Statistics, 36.76 percent of the state?s population is of nonwhite heritage. These people?s histories are not honored by the flag. If a Confederate flag must hang atop the state capitol for the sole reason of honoring the white people?s heritage, flags for every cultural group of the state should be hung, as well. Otherwise, the Confederate flag must come down.
Any flag raised atop an American government building should not offend a sector of the population it represents. ?[The Confederate flag] doesn?t represent my heritage? says George Deas, an African-American from South Carolina. ?The Confederate flag is a symbol of oppression and repression and has been for some time.? Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of the NAACP said ?We are determined to bring that flag down. It represents one of the most reprehensible aspects of American history not only for people of African ancestry but for people from every background who know and understand the destructive horrors created by slavery in this country.?
Advocates for the flag?s presence assert that the Civil War wasn?t fought to preserve slavery, that the flag was a symbol of state?s rights against the federal government, that it should not offend anyone. The Confederate flag was not created to represent racism and hatred. This may be true, but it is irrelevant to the matter. Before being tainted by the Nazis, the swastika was actually a symbol of good luck. Regardless of its original meaning, however, no government building in the world would publicly display a swastika flag. The good intent of the symbol has forever been marred by those who chose to make use of it.
Perhaps the Confederate flag was not created to offend anyone. Nevertheless, it has become a despicable design to many people. It is inappropriate, if not completely offensive, to have this flag represent the very people who have suffered by it. The flag must be removed from the state capitol immediately. As John K. Alexander, a University of Cincinnati history professor said, ?Flags are powerful symbols because people care about them? As long as South Carolina continues to fly the flag, it will continue to be a volatile issue.?