Thoughts and Perspectives

Black Lives Matter: 13 Things I Would Rather See Happen Than Confederate Flags Removed

Of coursewhat people consider (and thus what is) the Confederate Flag is racist (as are almost all things associated with the South at that time)–symbolizing hatred by 2015-mores to its core. Any examination of political and cultural rhetoric in the South during the 1850s and 1860s and 1870s shows this, as well as uses of this flag since the 1920s. The speed and force with which people have come out en masse; articles such as this one, this one, and this one; Walmart pulling the flag; and the governor of South Carolina speaking all speak to the power of social media (as Dr. Yaba Blay says) and contemporary mores associated with modern liberalism.

My concern, however, is that the current attention around the flag is and will continue to distract from much more serious, much much internalized, much more systemic, much more institutionalized issues. Yes, the flag being removed from public, official “memorials” is a great thing and is much needed, but it just a tiny, tiny, tiny step toward what should have been done centuries ago.  

  1. Non-White fictional characters featured in legitimate, seriously-considered roles such that POC of all ages are represented in positive ways. Representations matter because they create the impressions people have.
  2. A complete halt on Black Men being singled-out for “crimes” and given much harsher sentences. An end of Black Men being killed and beaten up by White people.
  3. Serious coverage and respect given to Black History and culture and listening to Black people.
  4. Required high school and/or college courses in African American Studies taught by experts.
  5. Serious affirmative action-like and reparations-like programs, as well as understandings of equity vs. equality. Equity is what we need. (See Ta-Nehisi Coates’s article.)
  6. The end of “voter IDs” and life-long disenfranchisement for people imprisoned and other tactics that function as Neo-Literacy Tests/Poll Taxes.
  7. The end of Republican and Tea Party racism toward President Obama.
  8. The end of pushing Black Men into dangerous sports in high school. Yes, football is racist.
  9. The end of accusing Black Women of being “welfare queens.”
  10. The true end of de facto and de jure discrimination, including segregation and pay inequalities.
  11. A recognition of the legacies of enslavement.
  12. The end of you-are-suffering-from-white-guilt attacks on White people who care.
  13. A sincere recognition that racism and White Privilege are alive.

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14 replies »

  1. Great list. Couldn’t you have said “would like to see in addition to having Confederate flags removed”? They are definitely more important, but the flag action was doable even during political gridlock, so it was done.

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  2. “A recognition of the legacies of enslavement.”

    Removing the Confederate flag from public places of governance would be a major step in the right direction, no? I agree with the other commenters here, it’s a both/and situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The United States flag does indeed embody many negative connotations for Americans and people around the world. The United States and its flag, however, were conceived in the spirit of freedom, liberty, and the premise that all [people] were created equal. History shows that putting these values into practice has been and continues to be an imperfect operation, and our nation’s constantly evolving debate about the meaning of these values ensures that we will always struggle to find a consensus when answering the question of what it means to be a “United Statesean” (your term!). But the U.S. flag, broadly speaking, operates under the belief that everyone–regardless of background–has a chance to succeed in life. I’d like to think that the worst episodes of our history represent a failure to implement the values embedded in the U.S. flag rather than the flag being an inherently destructive symbol of oppression, although it can be easy to see it that way sometimes.

      On the other hand, the various Confederate flags created during the Civil War represent a fundamentally different belief and premise–that people of different races were inherently unequal, that white men were a superior race and gender, and that unfreedom and enslavement were the natural conditions for people of African descent. As William Tappan Thompson, creator of the Second Confederate National Flag, remarked about his design, “As a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.”

      The U.S. flag, then, represents ideals about freedom and equality that have been imperfectly achieved. The Confederate Flag represents ideals about unfreedom and inequality that were accepted and achieved quite easily during the Civil War.

      Your thoughts?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Not to get too picky but the US flag WAS ONLY “conceived in the spirit of freedom, liberty” for people White, Male, etc. I do agree that meanings associated with the US flag have evolved, while Confederate flags have, of course, not. Many rhetorics of the US at the time were indirect (implied exclusion), while the South was much more direct (stated exclusion).

      It’s getting late. I’ll think about it more

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    • “the US flag WAS ONLY “conceived in the spirit of freedom, liberty” for people White, Male, etc.”

      Yes, of course, but if the U.S. flag and the Confederate flag represent the same ideals and principles, then I’m not sure why a white supremacist like Dylann Roof would choose to associate with the Confederate flag and pose for pictures in which he burned the U.S. flag, much less why the idea of a new Confederacy built on white supremacy would have gained so much traction in the first place. What ideals did Roof wish to destroy in the act of burning the flag while at the same time embracing the Confederate flag (among others) as his own?

      Thanks again for engaging in a thoughtful conversation with me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for just having gotten to this one. As far as flags go, the US flag is often used in protests against women, immigrants, gay people, etc. It’s for sure touchy “comparing” forms of oppression. But, both flags are used for bad. The US flag does have good uses – such as funerals.

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