In the last two weeks, I’ve seen more Confederate flags than I’ve ever cared to see. They’ve been on the news, in the papers and, most heartbreaking to me, here in Searcy. After the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, inspired protest at the courthouse two weeks ago, it’s hard not to form a hard opinion on Confederate iconography in today’s society.
It’s delusional to think that these articles and monuments can be represented without definitive ties to the past atrocities committed in their name. The Confederate flag was flown first in a war over slavery, later at lynchings and most recently at gatherings of neo-Nazis and white supremacists as they defended statues of men who built a Southern American empire on the backs of African American slaves.
Another Southern delusion is that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights, not slavery. While this is a nice fantasy, it doesn’t hold up against the founding documents of the Confederacy. In fact, the constitution of the Confederacy clearly states, “In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”
The myth of high taxes and tariffs also falls flat, as South Carolina history proves. In 1857 a new tariff was written by a Virginian slave-owner that presented a record-low rate, and therefore alleviated agitation in Confederate states by the time of war, the tariff established that a Southern plantation owner could export his crops to Europe at the lowest tariff rate since 1816. While it isn’t entirely untrue to state that the war was fought, at least in part, over money, that claim can almost solely be made because of the fact that the wealthy Southerners’ main incomes depended on slave labor.
Those who oppose the removal of the statues continually preach “heritage not hate” but fail to realize that slavery and the now century-and-a-half long ripple effect it produced is an undeniable part of the collective heritage of our country. Continually denying the purpose of the Confederacy is just a way for sentimentalists to ignore the hate that these symbols represent — what they have always represented.
The institutional racism of the American South started with slavery and has not ended. Institutionalized racism is running rampant in today’s society as more and more black lives are lost, the first of which were lost in the same vein that the Confederacy was formed.
Beyond the hard facts, these statues send a message. To the African American community that says “we are proud of what we’ve done,” and that is unacceptable. We should learn from our past. We should learn from the atrocities of slavery and racism in the American South so that we know how to prevent it in the future. We should glean all the knowledge we can from the mistakes of our ancestors, but history should be viewed within its context. Some parts of history belong on a pedestal, others belong in a museum. I believe that statues memorializing men who fought to oppress any other human being belong behind thick glass.
This article is a part of an opposing view point, you can find the other side here.