Photo: Sebastian Pichler on Unsplash
The Confederate flag has been under attack for many years now. Some years back, Confederate articles were taken down from public places due to the connotation of racism and white supremacy. However, it is important to understand the history of the flag in order to understand whether it is offensive or not.
First things first: There is no such thing as a Confederate flag. This is because the Confederacy used many different flags during its time. The flag that we today call “the Confederate flag” (the blue x on the red background) is only one of many flags. This flag gained its popularity and importance, in part, because of General Robert E. Lee. General Lee led the northern Virginia troops.This was the first military group to implement this particular flag design. Because of his reputation as a great leader and general, the blue cross on the red background became the most well-known Confederate flag.
While the flag was not directly associated with slavery and racism, they were linked since the Confederates were pro-slavery. The Confederacy was also in support of other things, such as changing the judicial and executive branches, changing the presidential terms, voting rights, canceling the African slave trade, and more. If the Confederacy had won the war, however, there was a good chance that slavery would have continued.
Post war, all of the Confederate flags were put away. They only resurfaced in the late 1800s to commemorate the fallen soldiers and those who fought in the war. Because of this, the use of Confederate flags grew in popularity in the 1880s and 1890s. In the 1900s, the flag became a symbol of southern pride. Many colleges and fraternities would hang the flag up to showcase the pride they had in their southern roots.
1948 was the start of the Democratic Convention. One of the topics at the convention was civil rights. The purpose of the convention was to break the divide in the United States regarding African American rights, and to end segregation. Those in opposition to these were known as the Dixiecrats. The Dixiecrat movement was especially large in states with high African American populations. At this point, the flag became associated with the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) group. This is the time when the flag started most of its white supremacy, racist, and hateful coalition. Ever since then, the symbol of the Confederate flag was a scary, demeaning, and threatening symbol, specifically to African American people. Regardless of its other original meanings, the fact is that it became something very offensive. As with anything else, time has a significance on the meaning of something. Even language changes over time. People used to say “she’s heavy,” and now that refers to the weight of someone. That flag used to represent rebellion and abstaining from the status quo. Some people are trying to integrate those meanings into the flag again. The problem is that the definition of the flag has been tainted. Not only this, but people who were alive and grew up knowing the flag meant hate, segregation, white supremacy, and sometimes violence, are still affected by seeing it today, no matter how edgy people think they are being.
After some horrific events were done in association with the Confederate flag, many states took action in distancing themselves from the flag. They took down Confederate monuments to make it clear that they did not support or encourage that kind of evil. On the use of the flag in public, John Cosik, a historian at the Museum of the Confederacy, says, “the people who want to believe that it (the flag) means heritage are the ones who should be in favor of restricting its use. If you really believe that it is a flag of history and heritage, you should be leading the charge to make sure that it is only used in context of unambiguous history and heritage.”
The flag and other Confederate monuments are still important to history, but they should be kept in museums and historic places where the significance and context can be preserved and learned from.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Step Up.
Alizah Acosta is a passionate writer from the cold corner of America, better known as the Northeast. She recently graduated from Clarks Summit University with a bachelors degree. She uses the experiences and skills she has acquired and puts them in her work. Writing is not just a career, but a form of communication and an art. Writing is about showing this art form in a conveying and meaningful way.