The Confederate Flag is a Backlash to the Civil Rights Movement

Why don’t we call racists unpatriotic?

The “Confederate flag” has become the focus of national attention in the aftermath of the nine murders at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston. The controversy centers on the fact that the terrorist killer posed in several photos with the flag, and the flag is also part of a Civil War monument located on the ground of the state capitol.

South Carolina governor Nikki Haley announced yesterday that she supports removing the flag from the capital grounds - but not before conservatives defended the flag as a part of southern history.

Why did conservatives step up to defend a flag that was flown by traitors and racists? And how can the flag’s supporters still be considered patriots?

First, it’s worth pointing out that not a single Confederate state flew the flag that we now call the “Confederate Flag.” That flag was simply the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee’s command. And it was mostly used by Civil War re-enactors for most of the century following the Civil War.

But in 1946, Dixiecrats began flying the flag “as a symbol of Southern protest and resistance to the federal government” - in other words, against integration.

At that time, racists in the South were mostly Democrats. The Southern democrats defended slavery before the civil war, and over the next century would be the party of segregation and Jim Crow. But that all started changing in 1964 when Barry Goldwater, who had voted against the Civil Rights Act, won most of the Deep South despite losing most of the country to LBJ.

And then in 1968, Nixon ran his presidential campaign on a platform of “state’s rights” and “law and order.” He lost the Deep South to former Alabama Governor George Wallace. But that was the last time a Republican presidential candidate won an election without carrying the Deep South.

In an interview in 1981, Republican strategist Lee Atwater bluntly summed up the Republican’s “Southern Strategy.”

“You start out in 1954 by saying, “N*gger, n*gger, n*gger.” By 1968 you can’t say “n*gger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N*gger, n*gger.”

That’s a Republican strategist talking about how “states’ rights” and “economic cuts” became dogwhistles for racism. And that’s just one year after Reagan gave his infamous “states’ rights” speech to kick off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Philadelphia, Mississippi also happened to be the site of the brutal murders of three civil rights workers who were working to register African American voters in 1964. And that Republican strategy of catering to racists has only become more entrenched and less questioned over time. A story at DailyKos points out two startling examples with current politicians.

The first came from Steve Scalise when he ran for Louisiana’s open seat in the House of Representatives against David Duke - the former KKK grand wizard and white supremacist author. What did he have to say about his rabidly racist white supremacist opponent?

“The novelty of David Duke has worn off. The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.”

That’s Steve Scalise, the third ranking member of the House GOP, basically saying in 1999 that he believed in the same issues as a former leader in the Ku Klux.

Or consider the fact that Richard Quinn, adviser to Lindsey Graham, is the former editor-in-chief of a “neo-Confederate magazine” called Southern Partisan. He used that role to write that Martin Luther King Jr. was leading “his people into a perpetual dependence on the welfare state;” and to call Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and a “bad egg.”

Oh - and he also gushed over David Duke’s election, writing “What better way to reject politics as usual than to elect a maverick like David Duke.”

That’s a leading political adviser to a U.S. Senator and Republican candidate for President, and he’s praising a convicted felon who has spent much of his life distributing and promoting Nazi and neo-Nazi literature.

No American politician would dare say that ISIS has some good ideas, no one would even dare praise Eugene Debs as a maverick. That would be political suicide: the politician would be painted as a supporter of Islamic Extremism or Communism. Either way, they’d be called unpatriotic.

So, why is it okay to say that they agree with someone who was not just a member - but a leader - of America’s pre-eminent racist terrorist organization?

And why is it okay to support flying a flag that represents the greatest act of treason in American history?

When the Founding Fathers declared the United States independent from the British Empire they wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Racism today goes fundamentally against those words of our Founders. And it’s time that we start calling racists for what they are: unpatriotic.


tim-mccoy's picture
tim-mccoy 7 years 49 weeks ago

The problem is NOT that there is some flag flying that needs to be taken's that the flying flag indicates that racism is undeniably institutionalized. Recall the recent Voting Rights Act decision by SCOTUS....who just decided the South was cured...when we ALL know the decision's purpose was to really further suppress the vote in the South. This terrorist act makes that SCOTUS decision look blatantly self-serving (to Republican campaign contributors). So it was decided to throw the flag under the bus in order to cut-off the debate moving to the SCOTUS decision. The "slippery slope" precisely this.

TM (collegeville PA)

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 49 weeks ago

On Monday, I learned of a very interesting court case called Kerr v. Hickenlooper.

What's been going on here in Colorado for 22 years is that a constitutional provision called the TABOR Amendment (short for "tax payers' bill of rights") has been strangling the state and local governments' ability to raise taxes and keep the money if the revenue passes a certain threshold. It is possible to increase the revenue cap, but only through a ballot initiative; TABOR eliminated the legislature's power to determine tax law. All the legislature can do is determine how to give the extra money back when that occurs, since it wasn't specified in TABOR.

There lawsuit, put forth by Democrats, alleges that the aforementioned limitation of the legislature's power violates the "guarantee clause" of Art. IV, Sec. 4 of the U.S. Constitution: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government..."

I had never interpreted that clause as meaning anything other than keeping the states from creating inherited government offices, but this suit is attempting to use it to ensure that the legislature has sufficient power to run the state properly.

It's a great use of the conservative argument I've encountered on the Internet a lot, where people say, "I'm glad this is a republic and not a 'mob rules' democracy." (Of course, this argument has been promulgated in order to plant the seed in people's minds that democracy and the Democratic Party are un-American, and that people shouldn't want the right to vote.)

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has made some sort of a decision already, and the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to decide soon whether to take the case.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 49 weeks ago

Thom predicted that the TPA would be voted on at a particular time in order to evade the news cycle. News organizations need to strategize against this.

Jon Stewart has ridiculed cable news channels for wasting time standing around in weather or anticipating court verdicts; why don't they stake out Congress in the same way? At least there'd be nicer architecture in the background.

bobhirst's picture
bobhirst 7 years 49 weeks ago


There's a bit more here about "southern heritage" that needs to be dealt with.

The following self-explanatory letter was sent to the WaPo, NYT and Newsday:

"To the Editor:

The rush to remove the Confederate flag from our midst, leaves in place the honor bestowed on the memories of military men who fought against the United States in the current naming of military installations where our men and women train to serve the United States.

Today, we have military facilities in the names of Fort A P Hill in Virginia named for a Confederate Lieutenant General at Gettysburg and many other major battles and Fort Gordon, GA in honor of John Brown Gordon, who was a Major General in the Confederate army, a Georgia governor, a U.S. senator, and a businessman. Fort Benning, Georgia is named for Henry L Benning, a Confederate general, lawyer, and politician who supported slavery. Also on the list is the world's most populous military facility with 45,414 assigned soldiers and 8,900 civilian employees, as of April 2014. Fort Hood, Texas is named for Confederate General John Bell Hood, who gained recognition during the Civil War as the commander of Hood's Texas Brigade. We also have Robert E Lee, whose name is easier to find and who also has a military installation named for him in Virginia.

If we are wiping the slate clean, we might just rinse out the rag and continue wiping. "


What I neglected to add is that each of these men had somewhat distinguished careers with the US Army before they became traitors. Yet, each of them is honored 150 years later. We had another very good general in the US Army before he turned traitor. There are no facilities named for Benedict Arnold. Why the difference?

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 7 years 49 weeks ago
Quote TH:Why don’t we call racists unpatriotic?

Does that apply to black racists as well? The elephant in the room that is always conveniently overlooked is the fact that there are black racists (a lot of them) as well as white racists, as well as yellow, brown, and maybe even green racists. Maybe even orange racists if you drink a lot of carrot juice. Yes, if you drink enough of it every day your skin will turn orange.

And why can't a white person use the N word if the blacks use it all the time... like in their rap music? Since they are quite fond of using that word, perhaps it should not be seen as the verboten derogatory word that they want to lord over our heads as a politically incorrect term. They also feel quite free in using the C word (Cracker) and the H word (Honky) which I, personally find rather amusing...funny, actually!

Unpatriotic? Get out of town! Does anyone really care if they are called "unpatriotic" anymore? Our "beloved" country has a long history of murdering many people, illegally invades and occupies, steals other country's resouces, not to mention 9/11 was an inside job? Maybe we should burn the US Flag because it stands for so much more murder and mayhem and greed and exploitation than the Confederate Flag has ever stood for.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 49 weeks ago

All the Confederacy's participant in the Civil War were essentially pardoned, so I don't think we should worry about the names of individuals everywhere.

mathboy's picture
mathboy 7 years 49 weeks ago

Come to think of it, an empty flagpole is a much more appropriate symbol for the SC war monument.

Steve6408's picture
Steve6408 7 years 49 weeks ago

Ok so the Liberal is now saying we should censor free speech.... The displaying of any flag is a form of free speech... Just like the burning of a flag... The idea that anyone can just say "that's offensive" and remove something from the public is Wrong in this case. So the "N" word is offensive but can freely be used in music ?! Or how about if someone finds the gay pride rainbow offensive and exclusive should we then outlaw that symbol? NO!!!!

Free Speech does not mean popular speech! If someone calls themselves racist, nazi, or a raincoat it's their Right under the Constition of these United States 1st amendment to do so... So long as they respect the law of the land; IE hang any flag on a public building but do not bar access to anyone. It is after all just a piece of cloth and carries no weight or value to prohibit or hinder people in any way.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 49 weeks ago

Pal -- Where have you been? I haven't seen you here for some time.

You seem to be speaking of racial awareness. Racism should be reserved to describe government actions based on race. It is not reserved for that, but I think it should be. White people can say the N-word whenever they want, and the government will not do anything to them for saying it.

There are lots of instances of burning the American flag. Most of them occurred in the '60's.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 49 weeks ago

kilosqrd -- I think it should stopped wherever the democratic process says it stops. Your contribution to that democratic process is gratefully accepted.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 49 weeks ago

steve6408 -- Freedom of speech does not mean we are forced to say things we do not want to say.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 7 years 49 weeks ago

Reply to #9: Steve, the Confederate flag is tantamount to a terrorist flag. Hey, let’s display one with a big-ass swastica and see how what kind of impression that makes! Because the Confederate flag to black folks is equivalent to the swastica for Jews. It’s all about hate. Wanna live in the Hate State? Is that what "free speech" is to you conservatives; promoting terror and hate?!

Gay pride is all about loving whomever you choose, making a family with whomever you choose. That was a lousy comparison, Steve, for it is the very antithesis of hate.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 7 years 49 weeks ago

Chuckle8: Hi there! Nice to see you again! Actually, I wouldn't want to use that N word because I think it is demeaning and disgusting which is why I find it so confusing why they'd use it in RAP music. Why do listeners enjoy listening to that word so much if it it disgusting and demeaning?

Quote Aliceinwonderland: Hey, let’s display one with a big-ass swastica and see how what kind of impression that makes!

Hey, why not? And here I thought you were anti-free speech!

You can't really "stand for free speech" if you try to ban it.... no matter what is said or displayed or shown on TV, in the movies, or on the internet. So, unless you agree that displaying the swastica or the confederate flag or the jolly roger or Obama's bare a$$, you're really not for freedom of speech. You are for limited freedom of speech, perhaps. But "limited freespeech" is a lie a is not really free because it is limited. And where does that take you? They censor a little here, and a little there, and pretty soon you have nothing resembling freedom of speech. Everyone says they are for freedom of speech but they really aren't. They always have their limitations. And to enforce those limitations takes a police state.

With Freedom of Speech you have the Freedom of not Listening or watching. It used to be, with broadcast TV (and still is, I guess), that if an actor said a "bad" word they would be fined. Then they used a delay and the censors would bleep out the word. Now, we have paid cable TV and they do and say just about anything and everything. You have the freedom of choosing to watch and listen or not. But there are those people who still want to censor things. And they still do censor things. So, we still don't have total freespeech. But some people just cannot get that through their heads. They always want to limit what others can say, or display. It is a form of mind control and they control you... what you think and believe... they manipulate you. It is not true freedom of speech. They are Hippocrites that depend upon a police state to monitor and limit what people can say and view. See, you're not so "liberal" after all are you?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 7 years 49 weeks ago

Pal -- Remember, we do not live in a theocracy. The constitution is not scripture. If 67% of the people think the N-word should not be protected by the 1st Amendment, one could argue that it shouldn't be. However, having said that, I agree with you. I like that people can say whatever they want. Also, I often believe that we do live in a theocracy

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 7 years 49 weeks ago

I get a kick out of the TV series The Game of Thrones where the religious group calling themselves "The Sparrows" managed to wrest power from the regal rulers.

And then, there was the other religious woman, Milisandre (played by Carice van Houten), who convinced another regal ruler that royal blood burned in the fire gave them special powers that would lead them to victory over their enemies. She even convinced the ruler to burn his own young daughter to the stake that was supposed to give them the power to defeat the enemies that they were about to attack. Things started to fall apart after that. The guy's wife, the girl's mother, hung herself and then he was killed in battle. Milisandre, now realizing that her beliefs were mere fantasies seemed stunned as she rode back to the others. Will she burn herself in a fire believing that she will appease the god..."the one god"? I imagine she will return in the new series with some kind of excuse for why her "magic" didn't work. People are constantly doing that when their prayers don't work.

And it was a fantastic final episode featuring prolonged full frontal nudity of the woman, Cersei Lannister(played by Lena Hedley), who played the mother of the young boy king. It went on for many minutes as she was forced to walk back to the castle completely nude with the people cursing and jeering her for being a fornicator, etc. etc. What a good sport, aye, that Lena Hedley? Of course, it was The Sparrows who made this happen. Cercei, the mother of the boy king, went from the most powerful to the most spat on by the common peasants and she brought it upon herself because she thought she could use the Sparrows for her own benefit but it backfired on her. Give the religious manipulators enough power and they will have nuns cracking everyone's nuckles for all kinds of imaginable sins.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 7 years 48 weeks ago

The Confederate flag is a realic of history. It belongs in a museum. There is no interference of freedom of speech on the part of individuals, if they want to have the flag on their vehicle or at home or whatever, but retailers have the freedom to stop selling a symbol that represented slavery. The issue of black prejudice toward whites is more of a statement of prejudice toward blacks than anything else. A.M.E. churches welcome people of all races. I believe schools often do a poor job of teaching American history as it applies to slavery, reconstruction, and to the civil rights movement up to the present.

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