Heritage, Hate and the Juvenilization of Free Speech


I am a Southerner.  I have lived in 3 cities in my life; 18 years in a rural town in North Alabama, 5 in Atlanta and 12 in Birmingham, Alabama.  I grew up middle class, white in a small racially divided town.   I grew up in a culture where rebel flags were flown off the back of pick up trucks, they were worn on hats and raised on makeshift poles in people’s yards.  I was taught that these were symbols of heritage, reminders of who we were and who we are.

I grew up with parents that used the word “nigger” in regular conversation, when they were angry and when they talked about the people who lived in “pepper town”.

One of my earliest memories of my dad is him coming home from work covered in wisps of cotton, a machinist in the local cotton mill, wearing a white t-shirt and his black, fishnet work hat embossed with a rebel flag.  I remember being very young and carefully helping him place a bumper sticker on his lime green, late 70’s beat up pick-up truck.

The sticker was a rebel flag with the words “Keep It Flyin”

I remember being in 4th grade and calling another little boy, an African American 5th grader, “nigger” because that is what he was in my world.  A nigger.

This is my pedigree.  

The school principal, who was also my baseball and basketball coach heard me say this and called me into his office.

“Why did you call him that?” he asked

“Because that is what he is,” I told him with out flinching.

“What do you think that means?” he asked.

“It is another word for a black,” I said (it is important to note that we did not call them “black people.” I think subconsciously that was a little too humanizing for us.  Calling them “blacks” was more simple, more to the point and noted them for what they were, a color not a person.

My principal spent the next two weeks with me (in detention) talking with me about that word, what it means and what it does to people when they hear it.  He spent 2 weeks, every day with me in his office talking, working through these ideas and helping me understand that words and symbols carry deep, impacting meaning and they should be handled with great care and respect.

He was my salvation.

He saved me from the depravity of racism, the ignorance of inequality and the suffocating quicksand of hatred.

Years later when I realized what I had done, how I had been raised to think and who I was going to be, my stomach sank.

Thursday morning I felt that sinking all over again.  I felt it because I began to hear the voices of my childhood in the comment sections, the Facebook posts and in the justifying soliloquies of the defenders of what they call “heritage.”  Outrage over the rebel flag began almost immediately as the state of South Carolina lowered all of its flags to half mast, all except the rebel flag.  The racial fissure in our country’s bedrock began to pull apart again.  People talked of heritage, history, southern pride.  Posts were shared explaining in great detail how the civil war was not about slavery, “only 1/4 to 1/3 of southerners even owned slaves” cites one story.

I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not here to argue with these historical claims.  I really do not care what they “historically” may or may not have stood for.  Are rebel flags appropriate?  Sure, in movies, museums and history books that recount the civil war it make sense because it has context.  Which is the problem we are facing today, context.

In graduate school I took this incredible class on the study of semiotics.  Semiotics is a discipline that studies symbols, words and their adoptive and adaptive meanings.  One of the primary principles of semiotics is that there is never a pure meaning that any symbol carries intrinsically.  In other words, a symbol’s meaning is always being redefined, interpreted and evolving.

Take the swastika for example.  It was a symbol that was very prevalent in eastern religions and even early Christianity.  You can find it in unbelievable amounts of ancient art, pottery and architecture.  It was benign and decorative.

That is the heritage and history of the swastika.

That is until it was adopted by the SS and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  It is a symbol and the definition of that symbol changed, and changed dramatically.  It was assigned a new definition, a definition of hate and genocide.

Here is the problem with the “it’s not racist, it is a symbol of our heritage” argument.  It makes assumptions about the static nature of symbols that are simply wrong.

The meaning of symbols are fluid, they are never static.  When a majority of people understand the symbol to point to another definition then the definition of that symbol changes.

When KKK members adopted it as the symbol of their hate, it changed.

When it was waved proudly as a banner for segregationists, it changed.

When it became synonymous with burning crosses, white hoods and ropes thrown over magnolia trees looped around lifeless brown necks.  It. Changed.

When a 21 year old young man from South Carolina writes a manifesto on his website proclaiming in horrifying detail his hatred for all minorities, posts pictures clutching in one hand the rebel flag and a gun in the other just before he goes out and kills 9 innocent people in a prayer meeting… it changed.

If you want to wear the “stars and bars” on a t-shirt or hat, be my guest.

If you want to fly it proudly on your lawn, go ahead.

If you want to make it a law that it has to fly on the lawn of your state capitol, feel free.

But know this…

When you do this you are throwing your lot in with racists, segregationists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, bigots and murderers.  You will be counted, not among a group of people supposedly celebrating “heritage” but among those whose lips drip with the venom of hate.

You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence.  Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.

Let me be clear the rebel flag did not cause that man to kill those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.  It is just the primary symbol of a sick and vile sub-culture that produces people like that man who killed those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.

I know that culture; I am a refugee and dissenter from it and an organizer against it.

Make no mistake: it is not heritage it is hate.



269 comments On Heritage, Hate and the Juvenilization of Free Speech

  • From a fellow Alabamian, I thank you, Stephen!

    • Debbi Snyder-Ellerman

      Bravo Stephen.!!..you recited my history, except for the principal of your school. Mine was silent, as were all my teachers, except for some who openly joined in with the hate speech/attitude. Also, my fellow church members and leaders joined in…with the same attitude. Coastal AL 1963 (5th grade) until I left for good in 1974. Today I live in TX, were the battle flag is also a proud symbol of a few. Things are different today, but starting now, I hope things become much different. The symbol still lives on today, tainted in blood, perhaps for all time.

  • Pastor Robert Jones

    You have said something powerful and true…

  • Your words of light are a gift to my heart in a dark week. I live in the south but grew up in the west to parents who made love and justice a way of life. Those who “proudly” insist on showing the confederate flag today brings to mind a phrase often used by a clergy friend of mine — militant ignorance.

  • I believe its principal not principle. I too was raised in the South and consider myself a true Southener. My paternal grandfather was a sheriff in a small AL town and I grew up hearing the “n” word more than I care to admit. I can never recall using it myself, but cringing when hearing it. My choice. I have had many African American friends in my life who I have loved like family. Yesterday while traveling through rural AL and FL, I passed several AME churches and my heart went out to those babes of the Mother Emanuel AME as they all were violated with this cruel act. May this be a lesson in compassion and tolerance to us all. And, may the love of Jesus Christ fill us all guiding our lives. Thank you for the conversation.

    • I believe it’s “it’s” and not “its”. I also believe it’s “whom” and not “who”. Being persnickety about grammar distracts from your message as well as Stephen’s message.

      • There’s always that one idiot that has to make pointless remarks . I guess that idiot is you today.

      • It distracts who? You? The reader? Before you critique someone else’s writing, make sure you use complete and proper sentences yourself. In addition to missing the point of the article, you’ve completely discredited yourself with regards to your own command of the English language.

        • While I agree that this is not the thread to make comments about grammar, Daniel did use complete sentences in this comment. If we’re going to criticise him, let’s criticise him for an entirely inappropriate comment.

          • You shouldn’t come down on Daniel as he was the one who pointed out Marsha’s childish critique of the article. No one should be fussing at Daniel.

      • Nah – most modern compute savvy people can understand content as well as context. As far as his grammar “its” is a word, just as it’s (the contraction of it is).

        Semantics and delusion of chasing grammar offenders is not well served in the context of expressing oneself.

      • Really Daniel. REALLY? Maybe if you would pull that arrogant stick out of your sanctimonious ass, you would discover a very poignant and powerful message Stephen sent as well as the replies from the grammar and punctuation deficient people. Your reply detracts from the message and you seem to enjoy making others feel small with your criticism of their spelling and punctuation skills.

    • did you really just cheapen this entire piece by correcting the spelling of a word?

    • Marsha, you have expressed so well what I am feeling after reading this article.

    • I believe it’s it’s, not its. And you’re right, it’s principal. But nobody used principle.

  • This Southern bred girl thanks you. I have been saying the same thing to people who are on both sides of the Hate or Heritage line. I don’t hate the flag, I just hate what it has come to represent. It is past time to put it away.

  • This is the most logical interpretation of the Confederate flag I have seen. A fellow Southerner.

  • Thank you for your post. I would like to add a perspectivea that i rarely see. Being a disabled veteran, I can tell you that separate from the views above and other views about the slavery issue, the bottom line is this. It was and is a flag of TRAITORS! It is a symbol of citizens who violated sworn oaths to this country and to our flag, the stars and stripes. Those who display it as culture and pride know this, you culture is the culture of traitors.

    • Riiight…because you wouldn’t ever consider seceding when your own government raises an army and marches it right into your hometown in order to force you to go along with its political agenda. An agenda, mind you, that was not popular with your constituates.
      Allow me to forestall you before calling me a racist and let you know that I agree, for the most part, with the author of this article. I just don’t agree with you and your traitor nonsense.

      • I agree with you, Brad. Citizens of this country in the 19th century had not taken sworn oaths that they violated by going to war. The Pledge of Allegiance wasn’t written until 1892.

        • If this is the case and the Pledge of Allegiance means that we never have the right to rebel against our government no matter what it does to its citizens, then I will stop saying the Pledge when I teach in my school. God’s laws above the laws of man! What if my government eventually tells me to have abortions because of overpopulation – as China does? My carrying the child would become an act of rebellion against the government. There are so many scenarios where I might not be able to go along with my government, depending on what it chooses to do. So, for me, the Pledge perhaps doesn’t mean anything. I should just not say it.

          • Amen sister!! People need to always put God first, but unfortunately we live in such a corrupt world today. I am with you though, God and my values will always stand before ANY man.

          • Your statement, “God’s laws above the laws of man” horrifies me. Are you forgetting that all the horrors of the Islamic State – not to speak of ‘sane’, standard Islam as practised in Saudi Arabia – are carried out in the name of God’s [Islamic] laws? NO NO NO, plain humanity comes first. And that undoubtedly involves the recognition that black- and [whatever-] skinned people are the same as one’s self and have identical basic rights.

        • eliz, many had taken an oath. Anyone in the military, or who held elective office, or was appointed to certain positions, took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Participating in attempted secession violated that oath.

      • They were traitors, they were fighting against America, not the North. The only main reason for succession was because they couldn’t own slaves. Yes, slavery was not a popular agenda with America at that time. Please read the history books.

      • Correct, Mr. Benedetto. It was called the War of Northern Agression before it became a war against slavery, possibly because the people of the North were slaveowners, too. Perhaps we might all benefit from an unbiased refresher history lesson on the facts of what caused the 1st American Civil War before we start a 2nd one.
        INo need to call names & spew hatred, Mr. Ramirez. You may find your position quite hypocritical. ‘m sure the American Indians weren’t happy with how they fared in their own U.S. Government invasion. Do you consider them traitors? How about the Southwestern people who were incorporated by U.S. acts of war? This article is well-written and makes a valid point; time to take down a flag that is no longer a symbol of freedom, but instead has become a symbol of subjection. But let’s be careful not to kid ourselves about Old Glory. To many peoples who have had their lands & lives “won” from them, she represents that same agression and subjection still today.

    • My heritage isn’t southern, my family came here from Europe in early 1900’s.

      I don’t consider myself racist or hateful of anyone based on color.

      If my family history were from the south, I’d have to say most people’s analysis is not based on exact truths of history.

      It begins with what understanding of the Civil War you have.

      If you’re from the North, you’re taught that the Civil War was fought to end slavery, and that Southerners were all slave owners and racists.

      If you’re from the South, the Civil War was called the War of Northern Aggression. Due to the federal governments over taxation of products being produced from the South, and exported overseas.

      As it reads, the war began when the South refused to pay what they considered exorbitant taxes to the fed, which led to the secession of Southern States from the Union.

      That action is what started the war to begin with.

      Lincoln wasn’t a proponent of rights for blacks/slaves.

      Not to get off track with my initial point, the Confederate Flag doesn’t represent slavery and racism, it represents the stand against the federal government.

      The Confederate Flag was the flag of a newly created nation. Again, all of which was based on the South’s interpretation of the Constitution.

      The Civil War was fought over taxes.

      The Confederate Flag originally was a symbol of freedom to the South.

      I’m not blind to facts. We know that white supremacy groups have hijacked the flag and thereby changing what the flag represents.

      I don’t agree with banning the Confederate Flag.

      I believe people should learn more about history.

      I believe we as a society should publicly shame people of all colors who propagate division amongst races.

      Examples of these people would be:

      -Al Sharpton

      -The westboro baptist church

      -The New Black Panther Party

      -All white supremacy groups

      And also push out all of the people that we don’t see in the news, but we know them in our communities as instigators of chaos.

      Americans from all races and cultures need to push past this strategically created division and route out the trouble makers.

      These trouble makers work hard with a concise purpose to create hate and chaos.

      I truly believe the percentage of real racism through out society is very small.

      I also believe it’s very easy to conjure up feelings of hate and distrust within black, white, brown communities.

      We must resist all of this divisiveness.

      • “…the Confederate Flag doesn’t represent slavery and racism, it represents the stand against the federal government.”

        You are absolutely correct that the Confederate Flag once represented taking a stand against the federal government. Unfortunately, Dylan Roof chose to take that away as many others have done before him. Oftentimes we get caught up in debating things which are contrary to the core problem. I believe this argument over a flag is really just evidence of the brokenness in our world. If we are to persevere as a nation, it is incumbent upon each of us to be honest about these realities and start in a direction that is constructive. Dylan Roof was not “taking a stand against the federal government”. He was taking a stand against love.

        • What a you guys are say about this flag was a stand against the gorvernment, OK! But this flag does not represent all the people, so, like Stephen said, fly it over your house, ride around with it on your truck, you can even wear it around your head, but to fly it over the state capital, the place that represent all people, white, black or red, and know that it’s offensive to some, it shouldn’t be flown over state property, a place where all taxes payers contributed.

        • The states that made that “stand” ALL made it very plain and clear that they made that “stand” IN ORDER TO DEFEND AND CONTINUE SLAVERY and in order to assert and perpetuate the superiority of the white race. IT IS IN THE OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS RELEASED BY THESE STATES AS THEY SECEDED AND JOINED THE CONFEDERACY. No amount of your filthy lying can rewrite that VERY inconvenient historical fact.


        • That would be a much more palatable argument, DW29, if the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, hadn’t said, “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” And William Thompson, the designer of the 2nd confederate flag (the battle flag on a white field) said, “As a people we are fighting maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.” Does that sound like it’s not about slavery and racism to you? Me either.

          • It sounds like racism. And anyone who attempts to convince someone other than themselves that it was not is just fooling themselves. Had the confederates gotten their way…had the war gone a different way….there would be slaves today…I would be a slave assuming my grandparents and parents didn’t die in a cotton field.

      • Well said and I wish that we did know our own history. Let the people of the South decide what they want to do with their own flag.

      • Louise Mittelstadt

        I wish everyone could read this.

      • Wow, excellent work!

      • I totally agree with everything you said Carl. Finally, someone who brings common sense to the conversation of the flag and racism. Thank you.

      • The founding of the Confederacy wasnt based on slavery? The founders themselves disagreed with you, as proven by the dozens of times they reference slavery in their founding documents.

      • I agree 100%. Thank you

      • 1. The South seceded over states’ rights.
        Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

        On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.

        South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world,” proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. “Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”The South’s opposition to states’ rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states’ rights. Doing so preserves their own.

        (per the Washington Post)

      • Carl, my heritage IS southern and as a southerner I have to disagree with you. Based off of my own state’s Declaration of Secession, the analysis that the Civil War from the southern perspective was based more upon taxes than slavery is not entirely correct.

        The very first reason for Mississippi’s secession was given as thus: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”

        Further reasons for secession are given as hostility toward the institution of slavery originating in the Ordinance of 1787, loss of territory acquired from France, denial of the right to acknowledge slaves as property, denial of the right to bring new slaves into the states, nullification of the Fugitive Slave Law, advocating of negro equality, etc etc… (http://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp). While the declaration supports that Mississippi viewed these as acts of “Northern Aggression” at no time is taxation indicated as the reason, meanwhile Mississippi’s declaration firmly entrenches their reasoning in racism and slavery.

      • Read the famous speech made by the Vice President of the Confederacy and then tell everyone that the South rebelled simply because of the issues you stated. Get yourself fully educated.

      • Thank you one who did not grow up in this country for reminding some of us who were actually taught US history in school what that flag represents. A flag does not perpetuate cold blooded murder. That young man was raised in a home or community of like minded racist. I believe some on both sides of this matter grew up in homes where racism was a way of life. The sudden need to purge this country of the flag is symptomatic of a society who thinks putting a bandaid on a situation will fix it. It won’t. Until blacks and whites quit handing down hatred and disrespect generationally; horrific crimes like this will happen again and again. After the flag is removed what will we blame, what or who will we punish to placate those who live using the actions of a few to judge the most? A mind is a beautiful thing to waste. We birth babies who can be imprinted with hearts that do not see or judge by color or nationality. WE – black/ white/Asian;Latino; Muslim, Jew, Hindu etc…WE ruin them by our words and actions not flags or “surfers crosses”… We do it.

        • if you taught US History, I feel sorry for your students. This argument isn’t about “banning” or “purging” the flag. Reading comprehension should have been a required course….perhaps you were sick that semester?

      • The thing they’re waving around as “the Confederate Flag” is actually the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee’s army. It is a flag of aggression against the United States. The United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3, states that the definitions of treason are very narrow and that one of them is waging war against the United States. The Confederacy did that. Any other “definitions” of that flag are null and void as far as I’m concerned. No one even wanted to fly it as a political statement til sometime in the early 1900s, well after the war was over. But do come in here and foreignsplain to all of us exactly what our own nation’s history is; you’re playing right into the hands of ignorant racists who don’t want to face the fact they are racist (or don’t care, more likely).

        And I’m a Southerner by the way. And by the statements of the Confederacy’s own “founding fathers”, slavery was EXACTLY what they were fighting for. It is in writing if you care to *try* to find it.

        • I too was raised in the south. My family did not use the N-word and we had black friends that we loved and respected. It’s all in the eye of the beholder to see a symbol and see hate, bigotry and racism. Maybe those that see this should check their own hearts & minds.

          The Confederacy had an original design but was redesigned another two time. The flag you see today is the “Saint Andrew’s Cross”, which was incorporated into the 3 designs that the South used. It was designed by William Porcher Miles, the chairman of the Flag and Seal committee, a now-popular variant of the Confederate flag was REJECTED as the national flag in 1861. It was instead adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee. Despite never having historically represented the CSA as a country nor officially recognized as one of the national flags, it is commonly referred to as “the Confederate Flag” and has become a widely recognized symbol of the American south. It is also known as the rebel flag, Dixie flag, and Southern cross. The self-declared Confederate exclave of Town Line, New York, lacking a genuine Confederate flag, flew a version of this flag prior to its 1946 vote to ceremonially rejoin the Union. This information is from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Flags_of_the_Confederate….

          Though Lincoln’s antislavery views were well established, the central Union war aim at first was not to abolish slavery, but to preserve the United States as a nation. Abolition became a war aim only later, due to military necessity, growing anti-slavery sentiment in the North and the self-emancipation of many African Americans who fled enslavement as Union troops swept through the South. Five days after the bloody Union victory at Antietam in September 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary emancipation proclamation, and on January 1, 1863, he made it official that “slaves within any State, or designated part of a State…in rebellion,…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
          Lincoln had used the occasion of the Union victory at Antietam to issue a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the rebellious states after January 1, 1863. He justified his decision as a wartime measure, and did not go so far as to free the slaves in the border states loyal to the Union.

      • The Confederate flag was actually a battle flag, created to be easily distinguished from the American flag. And slavery and the right to own slaves did play into why the Civil War began, with southerners firing the first shot. Economics came into play because the South was reliant on slave labor to keep their economy strong.

      • Best post on here Carl. Do any of you think that the removal of this flag will change anything? It is a feel good placebo at best. The haters are going to hate, and now you have pushed them underground so you can no longer redly discern who they are. Pandora’s Box has been opened and what ever the left does not like will be on the agenda for banning. This is the tip of the iceberg and you will be surprised at where this goes, and the haters will still hate.

        • What in the world do you mean DM? It is still legal to fly the Confederate flag. Most states will just ban it from public grounds, which is a good thing. POTUS was in OKC today and people stood along the motorcade with their Confederate flags. No one arrested them. If anything this will make the flag more popular to those who are either clueless to its real meaning or fully understand and agree with the real meaning and want everyone to know they are treasonous, white supremacists. This is the good ole USA and anyone can be in the KKK.

      • Hell Carl, I am not a historian, but I think the general consensus of serious historical scholars of the Civil War is that it was most certainly largely about slavery. And lets not forget that slavery was largely about economic power among other things. Here are a few articles, which do not dig deeply into the subject, but worth looking at anyway: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origins_of_the_American_Civil_War ; http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/faq/ ; http://www.historynet.com/causes-of-the-civil-war ; http://americanhistory.about.com/od/civilwarmenu/a/cause_civil_war.htm – sorry, and I do not mean to be impolite, but I think your short version of the causes of the war is not accurate.

      • The states that made that “stand” ALL made it very plain and clear that they made that “stand” IN ORDER TO DEFEND AND CONTINUE SLAVERY and in order to assert and perpetuate the superiority of the white race. IT IS IN THE OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS RELEASED BY THESE STATES AS THEY SECEDED AND JOINED THE CONFEDERACY. No amount of your filthy lying can rewrite that VERY inconvenient historical fact.


      • If you really believe that the southern states’ secession was not about slavery, I invite you to google “Mississippi declaration of secession” and see what the words of the very people who made that decision say. Suffice to say, from your comments above, you’ll be surprised.

      • Cari, you should probably take history again. The Flag was not the flag of a newly created nation…..it was a battle flag, never adopted by the Confederacy. And that’s just one of the many things you have wrong. The one thing you have right, it that it is easy to conjure up feelings of hate and distrust and we should avoid that tendency.

        Perhaps you should read the article again, and then do a little research. I’m from the South, and the writer’s experience is similar to my own. While opinions may very, history is unchanging. We should focus what is, and what will be…..hopefully with the goal of making things better for all.

        Making excuses for our history or trying to re-write it will only lead to more things that our children will be ashamed of one day.

      • No the war was all about,and only slavery,the Southern states said as much in their Articles of Seccession. Now per taxes/tariffs in 1828 tarifffs were a problem which lead to the Tariff Reform Act of 1833 which basically phased out or drastically lowered tariffs by 1842 at which the South declared victory. To my knowledge their were no tariff problems from 1842-1860 and the Tariff Act of 1857 was basically written by Southerhors.

      • Sorry, but it’s revisionist history to say the Civil War and Southern secession wasn’t about slavery. While it’s true that from the Confederate perspective the war was about asserting their independence as states, the immediate issue prompting the rebellion was the election of Lincoln and the Republican party’s opposition to slavery expanding to the western states. Hitler and the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany during the 30’s wasn’t just about hatred of Jews, but that’s the legacy left and flying a Nazi flag will invoke those sentiments.

        Here’s just a few sources. I don’t see any references to taxes, but a lot of references to slavery:


      • “The Confederate Flag was the flag of a newly created nation. Again, all of which was based on the South’s interpretation of the Constitution.” Wow, Europeans must be the smartest people ever! You really took us to school there, Carl, The confederate flag was not the national flag, it was a battle flag and only one of them. It was first flown over the SC capitol as a direct response to desegregation int the early 60’s. I am not even going to get into the other goofy things you wrote.

      • Totally agree with you!!

      • On March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens made a speech that stated very clearly what the cause of the civil war was. These are his words: “The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” It went on to state: “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” This is what the Confederacy stood for. This is what it fought for. This is what the Confederate Flag represents, and has always represented.

      • Utter nonsense.
        The illegal rebellion (which caused the death of appx 750,000 soldiers alone) against the US government was started because the so called “southern states” demanded that the new territories opening up in the west become slave owning states. The whole southern economy was based on slave labor. The stars and bars was/is the flag of racists. There was nothing honorable about the confederate states. They brought death and horror to the whole country. Their treatment of their fellow human beings, stolen from Africa or bred in captivity, is a stain on humanity.
        In all honesty, can African Americans, Jews or Hispanics claim allegiance to a State that flies such an odious flag ? Or do you expect them to return to the back of the bus if they don’t like it ?

      • Regardless of what anyone was taught, the Civil War was not fought over taxes or states’ rights.

        I was taught, and always believed, that my home state of Texas seceded solely because of states’ rights.

        I recently took the time to actually read Texas’ declaration of secession. It was about slavery and the northern states’ refusal to return runaway slaves.

        Just because we were taught falsehoods and justifications, doesn’t excuse us from learning the truth.

      • No flag has been banned. I saw no less than a 100 just last night as at various 4th celebrations and on the back of pick up trucks I drove through town. I’d like to ban the use of the word “banned”. No one in these conversations seem to know what it really means.

      • No, the Civil War WAS NOT fought over taxes, for the Confederate States of America (CSA), it was a war fought for state rights to maintain slavery as an institution in support the agrarian economy of the south. State Rights at the time of the Civil War and before was the right of the state to codify into law slavery. Any information which attempts to distort that fact is an ideology in support of ignorance or propaganda.

        The CSA attacked the United States at Ft Sumter, S.C., afterwards the U.S. entered the war as a result of the attack on Ft. Sumter. Lincoln’s goal was to abolish slavery, the slavery supporting states of the CSA wanted to continue slave ownership, they began the war which was truly a “lost cause.” (As a side note: The confederate battle flag was created to distinguish southern combat forces, it was never authorized as a national flag for the CSA. Wiki has an excellent article about the 3 flags of the CSA – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America )

        Later in the mid 20th century the confederate battle flag came to represent Jim Crow, anti-Civil rights, anti-integration movements and white supremacy organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

        A disturbing bit of commentary from you Mr. Fiadini – For those who do not agree with your commentary or ideology, you would purge them from our nation and communities? A study of history will reveal this is the same type of cleansing which was attempted in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Rhodesia – Zimbabwe, Bosnia, Dominican Republic, South Africa and other governments in support of racial hatred as a governmental policy. Your comment Mr. Fiadini – “And also push out all of the people that we don’t see in the news, but we know them in our communities as instigators of chaos…Americans from all races and cultures need to push past this strategically created division and route out the trouble makers.” Just who will decide who the trouble makers are, you and your special appointed people? Is it your plan to have internment camps for the folks who don’t agree with your beliefs?

        Garry Morgan, U.S. Army Medical Dept., Retired
        Dept. of Defense, Race Relations Equal Opportunity Specialist, Retired

    • …and when South Carolina voted to secede, it was a minority of the people who wished to do so. A vast number of the people had no power, political or otherwise.

    • If you want to go that way, every person who is a descendant of a revolutionary war veteran is the descendant of a traitor. The only reason that keeps us from being called that is that we created a new nation, because we won. If the south had won, they wouldn’t be called traitors, they would be called another nation. So before you start with the Traitor conversations (and I’m trying really hard not to be obnoxious at your poorly researched comment), look at this nation’s history and try again.

  • Well said Stephen, well said.

  • Thank you so much! I, too, am a child of the South, born in 1947, and the great-granddaughter of people who owned other human beings and who fought on the side of the south. I grew up hearing “nigger” used casually in conversation, although – like “hell” and “damn” – I was forbidden to use it. “Negro” or “Nigra” were the words I used. I escaped that legacy, thank God, and I am so deeply saddened by what happened in Charleston – the city of my ancestors – that I can barely pull myself together. I am now looking for something I can actively do to bring about change. Getting rid of that abominable symbol of hatred, bigotry, and – as another commenter said – treason will be a start. But it must not be the end.

  • Powerful message! Please send to major news media. This is a must read!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I am a midwesterner now living in South Carolina. I can’t begin to tell you how sad I’ve been about the racism still alive here.

    • Please don’t hide behind “Midwesterner” as a promised land for racial tolerance. Yes, the South carries historical baggage of slavery, but hate and racism knows no boundaries. Until all of US take collective responsibility for how we treat each other, the poor, the marginalized, the “them,” we cannot prevail as one nation under God.

      • Wow, what a rebuke and sermon to this woman! I moved from the Northeast to a city just above the Mason-Dixon line, and I heard a Southern Baptist preacher say in a sermon that people shouldn’t intermarry because “birds don’t mate with dogs”. This would never be uttered in a church in the Northeast! Yes, there is racism across the entire country! But to deny there are hotbeds of it is to close our eyes to problems such as the Confederate flag STILL flying over a certain statehouse within the midst of that hotbed! This shooter in SC was not raised in the Northeast, and most likely, would not have become the shooter that he did become, were he raised in the Northeast. It just doesn’t happen there. People in the Northeast KNOW that racism is wrong, and so they actively try to eliminate it from their thinking even though they acknowledge to themselves that they may have it. It troubles them. It doesn’t even trouble many in the deep South.

        I agree that it is a shocker to move from an environment where people know racism is wrong to an environment where people openly are racist and have no concern about it. It is deeply saddening. I am with Linda on this one! She’s not being stupid and provincial. If you were to move, David, to Afghanistan, where many men believe it is religiously OK to beat their wives, you would be saddened and shocked to see the extent of wife-beating, even though there is wife-beating here in the U.S. And someone would be right to lecture you pedantically because of the lecture that you just administered to Linda.

        • My husband and I were both born and raised in the deep south. We are a biracial couple, he is black and I am white. Yes we faced bigotry while living there, but we have also faced it many other places in this country. Racism is everywhere and you’re blind if you think it doesn’t exist in the northern states. We no longer live in the south. We live in a Mid-Atlantic state(near Washington DC) We have visited the northern states many times and been treated worse than we were ever treated down south. My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years, and we have seen that racism is still alive in this country (unfortunately). We have the unique experience of seeing racism through both white and black eyes. I’m truly sorry to brust your bubble about the northeast, but racism is alive and well there as well. The northeast just thinks that you are not racist, but trust me it’s there. The northeast just hides it better. Please don’t delude yourself that it’s not there. At least in the deep south, they don’t try to hide it. They are open about race problems. You have probably never walked in a room and felt the hateful stares because you decided to be with someone who is of a different race. You also have probably never been in a situation where you are the only one in the room that is of your race. My husband and I have both been in that situation. As a couple, we can usually peg who the racist is just by watching body language. The only way all this will end, is through Christ. My husband and I are both strong Christians and realize we live in a fallen and broken world (that also includes people in the church). We both live with a heart of forgiveness and know that one day God will heal this world. I pray that God would open your eyes to the truth that hate is everywhere not just the south.

          • I’m white and my daughter who was raised Christain choose to marry a man from India who is Hindu. I love my son-in-law and think that my daughter made a great choice in a husband. They both seem to feel if they ever have any kids they will probably be raised Hindu BUT that is alright with me because love conquered prejudice in their case !!!!

        • Not have happened had he been raised in the Northeast? Seriously you believe this?! Well I say bologna, or ignorance is bliss. It, racism is everywhere. The Northeast however has a wealth of other nationalities that are recipients of racial slurs and actions.

      • Because we must do everything we can to perpetuate and encourage racism in the South if there is ANY racism ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD, right, David?

    • Isn’t Ferguson MO in the midwest?

  • I feel that the hatred is long gone now but, some people like to create a “foul mouthed rhetorical BS” that seems to carry on in their thoughts and, permeate peoples minds because, their own though process doesn’t grow at all? It is very sad that they seem to get stuck on one thing in the past! Grow up small minded people and, show some “r e s p e c t” for yourself and, your sisters and brothers!

  • Thank you from Lower Alabama … my Dad was much like yours but my Mother was my salvation, taught me about people and respect. Your words make me proud to say I’m from Alabama again!

  • You are so smart! This article couldn’t have been written any better.

  • *standing ovation* Well said!

  • I would love to know how the principal at your school navigated around the issue of respect for parents, when the parents are racists. That had to be especially worrisome for him – to teach you something in direct opposition to what your own father was teaching you, and on such a sensitive topic.

    • That is a great question! To be honest I would say that he did it out in the open and at the same time subversively. As racist as my dad was when I was a child, he was a cultural racist. He did not belong to hate groups, burn crosses or attack people physically because of their race. So when my principal spent time with me he did not see it as an issue. It also helped that my principal had a relationship with me, he coached me and poured into me in different ways. To be honest I am not sure if there is a systemic all encompassing answer to your question. I guess I would have to say that it is part relationship and part subversion.

      • It might also have to do with generational differences, since students now are much more supervised that those of us that grew up in the 80s and 90s, which means principals today have less leeway.

  • Stephen, no quarrel at all with your central point. My question is why this flag issue has been conflated with the Charleston shootings and by whom? Raising and lowering flags has no impact on anyone’s day-to-day existence. But it would make some people FEEL better and less guilty about sins of the past. Meanwhile, the serious issues facing the Black community would continue to be ignored. Fatherless children. Single-parent families. Dependence on inadequate government programs. High unemployment. Abortion (Black babies are aborted at 4 times the rate of white babies). These are the serious problems hindering the Black community today. None of which have anything to do with a piece of cloth on a flagpole. Liberal groups and the national media have exploited this tragedy and have used it to resurrect an old, divisive issue. And guys like you are helping them with their cynical, distraction strategy.

    • Now this, THIS is worth reading. Thank you for posting it.

    • 1) Looking at what you say about how flag issues affect people in their daily lives, it appears to me that when you say “all people” you mean “all white people.” Look again at what you wrote and tell me if I’m wrong. That ability to mentally erase black people from the picture is a small symptom of the big problem.
      2) Solving the flag problem would be much quicker and easier than tackling the other issues you raise. Does that mean it shouldn’t be done?

    • ” Raising and lowering flags has no impact on anyone’s day-to-day existence.”

      Perhaps, but the symbolism of that act does. Otherwise, why are we taught to stop and place our hand over our heart every time the US flag is lowered and raised? Why have there been Supreme Court cases dealing with flag burning and free speech? Why are veteran’s coffins draped with a flag? Why is there controversy over the inclusion of two words, “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance and whether that Pledge should be a required recitation every day?

      It’s a symbol — and a powerful one at that.

    • The flag has been associated with the the Charleston killings because of some posts this evil man made prior to carrying out his murders.

    • We can, as a society, walk and chew gum at the same time. As a South Carolinian and the descendant of Confederate soldiers and slaveowners, I can say now what I said 20 years ago: It’s past time for the flag to go. Demonstrating that a piece of cloth that is so hurtful to so many is not more important than our fellow citizens is a good step to take. Is now the time? No. Decades ago was the time. But now’s a good start.

      Lowering that flag won’t cure it all, so we can also work on all the other stuff you mentioned. The fact that we can’t do it all is no excuse for not doing SOMETHING.

    • Those are issues facing ALL American communities. One of the major issues of predujice in the country is that “problems” faced by the few in minority communities are broadly attributed to “the black community” wholesale. C’mon, look at the mass-murdering shooters who have inflicted terrorism upon this country to the extent that seemingly reasonable adults seriously debate that the solution to these “lone wolves” is that EVERYONE should be armed in all places, at all times. Can we apply the broad brush and say that this discussion of lowering the flag has no impact on the serious issue facing the White community that it is producing more mass-murderers, and at a higher rate than other communities? Fatherless households, unemployment, the war on education and science, White dependence on inadequate goverment programs (higher percentages and raw numbers than the Black community) are serious problems hiundering the White community from progrssing today. Right-wing groups have and continue to exploit these tragedies by encouraging the White community to arm themselves, fear the “liberals” who are coming for their guns, and to attribute all their problems to the Black community’s use of government programs. Yes, a divisive policy of distraction. But, apparently effective.

    • It’s sort of like a circle, Scott. There are 360 points on it and any one of them can lead to the center. The conversation has to begin somewhere. You and Stephen both make excellent points and raise excellent issues/questions; and none of it seems cynical to me, another child of the South who has been fighting this battle for half a century. Take Stephen’s words for the positive they offer and carry them and your own into constructive change that represents ideals and not ideologies.

    • Scott,Of course there are these other major concerns in the black community, but that’s not the topic here! Stephen is talking about the flag and its symbolism!! It’s dense people like you who always manage to miss the message and/or twist it because they want to downplay its significance as part of their “cynical, distraction strategy”!! It really ticks me off to read comments online that “it’s just a flag”…..or your “poor grammar distracts from the message Stephen”……What!! The point IS that it IS just a flag so why not take it down if a MAJORITY of the people find it to be offensive!!! and place it in a museum where it can be revered by people like you!!! YOU ARE THE ONE BEING DIVISIVE!

    • Your response is at the crux of racism in this country today. Until we move past “black community,” “hispanic community,” “asian community” and other means of divisiveness instead of seeing all God’s children as members of the human community, we will continue to face problems represented by symbols of hatred that divide instead of unite. We are all in this together and should be searching for ways to bring us together instead of pushing us further apart.

    • Scott Bachmann- I live in SC. My hat is off to people like Stephen Ingram. Most times here in the deep south, it takes a white person to get through to another white person. It’s even better when that person is a minister and a well spoken minister at that.
      Since the conversation of the flag has been re-joined, I’ve seen “friends” posting all sorts of thing about “their heritage” and “it’s pride-not hate” and the kicker…”if you don’t like it…leave”.
      I live in a small town. I love my town and the people in it. Good,bad or ugly. I know many good people who embrace that flag with such pride. not knowing the ugly sting that it presents to many others.
      These people have never had a family member lynched or had a cross burned in their yards or living in fear from threats and or beatings by the local night riders. Most do not consider the “heritage” of fear or the outrage of helplessness that black people have lived with in their lifetimes with that flag serving as a back drop.
      Most people don’t live their lives framed with the “golden rule”. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
      I leave you with this- the problems of the black community are the problems of the whole community for we are all one community. That which affects one affects all no matter the percentage rate. #onelove

    • Resurrect? lol, nice try, but you can’t resurrect it if it isn’t dead, and neither racism nor the use of the Confederate flag as a rallying symbol for racism is dead. Not by a long shot.

      But what is happening in the light of the Charleston massacre is a quiet revolution by non-racist Southerners to stop allowing our cultural heritage to be defined by malignant racists and THEIR symbol of choice.

      We are refusing to stay silent any longer while the rallying flag of the KKK and murderous white supremacists hangs on OUR public buildings.

      That is what has changed.

    • Scott Bachmann: I think “this flag issue”, as you put it, may have more to do with the other issues you describe than you might think. It’s not a coincidence that this flag, this symbol, has been adopted by a wide variety of hate groups including the KKK or that Dylan Roof himself adopted it as a symbol as we have seen in photos of him. They do this because of its meaning and history.

      For more than one hundred years, this flag has flown in our nation in support of the Confederate “great truth” that “the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” It has been defended with “dog-whistle” political soundbites which mask its significance while alluding to historically racist rhetoric. “Southern heritage”, “unified south”, “states rights”, “southern pride”. Even in textbooks the civil war becomes “the war of northern aggression”, despite Confederate troops firing the first shots at Fort Sumter.

      What we are fighting is an entire culture built around the support of racism and racist institutions, which has adopted this flag as its unifying symbol. Removing that symbol from public buildings, showing that there is no place for it in government, is a good first step to finally placing the Confederacy and its ideology where it belongs – in the dust-bin of history.

  • Symbols “become” many things, especially in the eyes of those who hate. That’s why those who hate Jews want to eliminate the Star of David flag. That’s why secularists want to rid us of every cross.

    Political Correctness is just as much a malady as a madman in a church with a gun. Christians ought to understand that.

    • I do not believe, secularists want to rid you of every cross. You seem to be a person who believes, that saying something makes it true. You are very wrong on that. I am a secularist. I do not care if you have a house built out of crosses. And I believe you know that. But that does not fit with your lying bullshit. I do not want crosses, or crescents, or six pointed stars. I do not want symbols of your religion, on public property. I would like you all to put 6 ft. crosses, in your front yard. It makes it so easy to identify, what your beliefs are.

      • Larry, “learningparade” may be viewing her comment and thinking through the lens of what is happening in China, where secularism has been taken to an extreme. In China, the government is definitely and systematically toppling crosses off of churches. Of course this is the fear of Christians in a country moving increasingly towards secularism – will we be permitted to retain our symbols and our celebration of what we believe Christ achieved on that cross for the world?

        But yes, no battle here about crosses – YET. You must admit that none of us here in America knows what the future of America will look like.

        For the record, the Confederate flag deeply, deeply offends me and I personally would be thrilled to never see it again. If people want to fly it in their front lawns, I agree with your perspective – they can feel free. But NOT from a statehouse in these UNITED States!

    • As a follower of the teachings of Jesus, I would LOVE to get rid of the violence fetishists’ obsession with an instrument of torture and violence as their chosen symbol of faith.

      Obsessing over HOW Jesus died instead of what He called us to do to walk in His footsteps has only served to feed the false paradigm of Christian persecution while justifying violence in His name.

      I won’t wear a cross, and I reject limiting Christianity to just how Jesus was killed.
      It is no wonder to me that Christianity has become among the most violent of religions ever known on this earth when it’s adherents obsess over an act of extreme violence as it’s primary symbol.

      Jesus was not about death or violence, we have allowed it to be perverted into a cult of death.

  • A wonderful post. You summed it up as clearly as it has ever been summed up. What I don’t understand is where that teacher came from. It seems to me that a teacher in AL would, most likely, have ignored your comment, or, possibly, asked that you not use the word. To teach you what he taught you seems utterly amazing to me. It’s a good thing it happened…..

  • Geoffrey Southard

    Well done. One has to be willing to listen and smart enough to understand. I just told someone the KKK stole the flag and changed the meaning. His response, “No they didn’t”. That simple,he didn’t get it and didn’t want to. End of conversation.

  • Thank you for what you wrote.

  • I am a white person from a small rural town in Virginia (the southern state associated with gentility – sipping tea while visiting neighbors and always wear white gloves to church types)I was told the flag stood for heritage, calling a black person anything but their name, sir, or ma’am was absolutely forbidden, politeness to EVERYONE was required. We did have a black housekeeper – she was treated respectfully, give paid holidays, and her child and I spent many happy hours running around playing. And most of the people I knew were like that. my grandfather was in Sons of the Confederacy, and my grandmother and mother were in the Daughters of the Confederacy. (We are also in the Daughters of the American Revolution)

    I think it is appalling that the Battle Flag of North Virginia (Lee’s army) is constantly being the focus of events like this rather than the person, and media and articles like yours constantly represent it as BAD, RACIST, etc. Focus on the person who did the crime, and chastise them for appropriating this ‘symbol’; and it’s ‘power’ will fade away, and maybe automatic judgements of the people who maintain the flag as symbolic of Southern Heritage will end. Similar to how the black population has assimilated ‘nigger’ and are ‘forcing’ it to mean ‘brother from another mother’. Eventually both will become benign.

    PS. The battle flag is not the real flag of the Confederate Army; it was the flag of the most successful group IN the army. Most of the battles were fought in VA, and naturally the VA battalions won more skirmishes.

    • Did you read the article? He clearly stated that the meaning and symbolism of the flag has changed. The flag is no longer about heritage or honoring those that have fallen. It is not associated with hate, murder and racism. That flag belongs in a museum about the civil war and no where else. There are some things that should remain in the past.

  • Actually, I don’t think the meaning has changed. It was always a symbol of racism. It was deliberately designed that way:


  • The flag in question is not the “stars and bars” but the battle flag of the army of northern Virginia—–which is the same that you’re familiar with.

  • Well put. Enjoyed your post. Namaste!

  • What this shows is that this is a very powerful and very complex problem. “I’m right and you’re wrong” never won a debate or solved a problem.

  • I love the stars and stripes of my country and am a proud patriot, but know we are no angels. The stars and stripes of the time flew over the genocide and land theft of the american indian and japanese internment camps and many incidents of imperial death to many many civilians of multiple wars. So what should we do with old glory?

    • Every flag in the world has flown over something that someone didn’t like. Ours also flew for many years, from the 1700’s until 1860, with no one objecting to slaves being imported to the USA. What should we do with Old Glory?? Root burned it too. He stained it with his drug soaked ideas. Let’s get rid of it and that will magically take away all the hateful American history? We’ll be washed in the blood. Hallelujah. You will never convince me that Southern men fought and died so that rich land owners could keep their slaves. It makes sense that they fought, as anyone would, to defend their land, property and families against northern invasion. Do you really think that northern men fought and died because they were worried about black slaves? Follow the money. The arrogancy of the Southern States couldn’t be tolerated. They had to be punished.

      • That is an interesting retake on what happened. It so closely parallels a sentiment given to me on another forum from someone who said WWII was not started by Hitler but by a Zionist banking cartel and he used the exact same phrase – follow the money. So, where does the money lead in the case of the Civil War? Did Union soldiers fight for being generously paid to do so and no one was told? Were they duped by a secret cartel of war profiteers? The North had the majority of the industry and the South had the majority of crops. The North did it to take over the crops for profit? Following the money leads to the conclusion the South had to be punished for their arrogance? How so? Please enlighten us on where the money goes. Please do not respond with “I live a busy life, do your own research,” which is the response of a lazy troller.

      • There truly is only one answer, and that answer is that the war was about slavery and the flag represents the desire to uphold that “right”. And here’s what really proves it: primary sources! If you want an accurate account of history, don’t read news articles or sensational books (though those can be good sometimes too), read the proof from the times.

        Here’s the confederacy’s declaration for their reasoning of war (spoiler: they articulate that the sole reason for defiance and retaliation is…wait for it…slavery):


    • Wasn’t this exactly what the article was about? The immaturity of rhetoric disguising itself as logic? “Old Glory” has not become a symbol for a regression into a time of hatred and criminality, while the Confederate battle flag — a flag representing criminals, murderers and enslavers of fellow human being — is a symbol used by those yearning to return to the abhorrent values of their 19th century ancestors. The South will rise again? Hopefully never in the terms the morons believe in who fly the Confederate flag from the back of their pickup trucks.

    • It’s already a different flag than the flag that flew over the displacement and genocide of Native Americans and the internment of Japanese Americans.
      Each additional star on the flag represented a change in our country, in it’s definition of who we are. Each additional star represented more than just adding more territory and another state, it represented adding more people, of different heritages and races, and changing our definition of what it is to be an American.

      I wish we did a better job of teaching our own history.

  • excellent piece…the best I’ve seen yet. Is there a possibility of being able to take back symbols as they were originally intended?Take the power away from the hate and reinstitute heritage? I know the black community has embraced the n word so that it loses power among haters.

  • So eloquently stated. Thank you!

  • Your piece is beautiful in its clarity and truth. Thank you.

  • Gerry Martin Dowler

    Thank you for your piece. It really hit home with me. As a 72 year old woman born and raised in Jackson MS, I had a similar experience growing up in the early 60’s. My salvation came as a freshman in college with the help of a Sociology teacher who helped me understand the world I was living in. She helped me understand the racism of my father (who actually stood with a shotgun on the steps of our church to keep a black family from entering) but who was kind and loving to his family with the ugly violence that was going around me. It changed my life for the better and laid the groundwork for the activist I became and have tried to live since then. I am still on a journey of self-discovery and am continually seeking to demonstrate more compassion for others.

  • Thought the article was good except for one of your last assumptions where you said the vile sub culture created the deranged killer. The killer is a lunatic! He’s nuts! He would have been a dangerous nut regardless of the symbol or culture. Why is it we jump to the conclusion that society is at fault when a nut job cracks? As long as there is freedom there is always going to be a deranged lunatic that snaps! We should be more focused on addressing what to do with the mental cases that are allowed to walk freely among us. This is not about race! It’s about a nut job! Simple as that! And those who won’t speak up when they hear and know someone is crazy! Why are we respecting what a crazy person has to say?

    • It would be oh so much easier if this all could be explained away that easily, wouldn’t it? Nothing can be done here, folks, just a nut-job doing what nut-jobs do, absolutely nothing we need to be responsible for in our own attitudes and words, case closed! No responsibility for me whatsoever here, sir, nope! None!

      Sorry Ronnie, but that’s bunk. Dylan Roof may well have mental health problems that helped edge his hatred of black people over the line to mass murder, but that hatred isn’t the random by-product of mental illness, it’s a very specific artifact of his culture. The words that came out of his mouth were not the incoherent ramblings of a deranged lunatic, but very coherent, specific words with a very long and well-documented history in the south that is intimately connected with lynchings, cross-burnings, fire-bombings, and every other atrocity southern racists have devised to visit upon black people. He didn’t make those words up himself, he grew up hearing them spoken by people around him. They may have never been intended as more than hot air by those who spoke them, but as a very wise song once said: “Careful the things you say, children will listen.”

  • so glad you were given another perspective as a child. kudos to the principal for taking the time to teach you instead of just punishing you. I moved to NC 22 years ago from PA. I was shocked to be called a “Yankee.” I had only heard the term in history books. I was surprised by the division that was still perceived in the south. I see the Confederate flag as hatred and racism, not something to be proud of.

  • This is a very interesting article. However, as it is written by an American for a largely American audience, I believe it leaves out a vital piece of context; if we accept the premise that symbols change with time (semiotics) should we not also accept that symbols change with the location of the audience that perceives them? For example, as an Englishman living in the UK what does the flag shown represent? Is it only what has been described in the article or is it something else as well? I have to confess my ignorance. When I first saw this flag many, many years ago, I did think it was the flag of the ‘Confederate States’ and furthermore I believed that the image it portrayed was less to do with that piece of US history and all the hatred and awfulness involved than as a symbol of protest by all races of the Southern States towards the Northern Federal government of the day. In fact if you see a bumper sticker in the UK of the ‘stars and bars’ today, the odds are the driver of that vehicle is not an American and does not know what the flag represents in the US. Furthermore, I suspect, he would be mortified to be thought of as a racist rather than a follower of a certain rock band….

    I can offer you the reverse situation – what does the Cross of St George (the flag of England – not the Union Jack) mean to an American? Is it a symbol of part of the UK or a rallying point for the extreme right wing?

    The ‘exam’ question from my point above is that if we (foreigners) misunderstand the context of a symbol are we further propagating something dreadful or are we helping to change it (over a long period of time) to something more benign?

  • Thank you – I have been struggling with how to say that since Thursday. Here is what I posted – along the same lines, on FB – a little later, in the comments, I even used the swastica argument.

    “I am a sometimes culturally confused person “of a certain age”. I grew up in the South, in Virginia. I argued during my adolescent and college years that the confederate flag was about pride in the South, and not about a symbol of slavery. But I have to say – if your reminders of ‘heritage’ are someone else’s reminders of pain, trauma and enslavement – there is something wrong with your ‘heritage’. Take It. Down.

    I will always be proud of the South – of the silken warm nights – with honeysuckle on the gentle breeze, the manners, the warmth of families. But I don’t need a flag to remind me of those. And I can weep from the memory of crab feast, watermelon, fried chicken, barbecue and the best corn ever. I am proud of that… I can put a picture of a crab boat on my wall as “heritage”.

    I don’t need that damned flag. Take. It. Down.”

  • A self-loathing southerner!

    Thank goodness the government employee at your elementary school gave you “salvation” from the ideas of your own parents. And thank goodness for your semiotics class in grad school!

    Southern pride must be stamped out! Thanks for doing your part!

  • Nice job, up until now I have always said that the confederate flag was heritage, and yes we can always class m that those hate groups didn’t have permission to use flag or we do not agree with them. But they still used it. So it means what they meant by it. I do see that it shows courage and strength, but I also believe it is up to certain people to use it for that. I’m happy they took down the flag in the state. However I do hope that they leave a little bit of history in the state Capitol. I also believe that it is a right and should not be taken away, just that people learn how to use it. So flying it in yard or wearing, you may be seen as racist, but you choose to be seen that way and that is the freedom that we all want in America. Where we can wake up in the morning and live lives without being told to do, with certain degrees.

  • As a white Southern male of a certain age (I grew up during Jim Crow), I thank you. Your piece extremely coherent and concise.

  • Thank you. I have lived in the south most of my life, although as a transplant at age 8 from the military subculture. As a white child moving to the south from life on an overseas post in 1960, segregation was shocking to me, as was the racist language I heard everywhere except in my house. I never understood, and still don’t, why so many clung to the Confederate flag as a symbol they could not give up – why they could not understand what a hate symbol it was, – why they could not simply lay it down out of respect for fellow man and sadness over that tragic part of our history. In high school, some kids marched a confederate flag through campus, and started a racial riot that impacted us all, and I have dispised that flag ever since. But, based on reactions I got when I talked about it, I thought I was alone in my feelings. Thank you for sharing this – I hope, I deeply yearn, to have this hate symbol removed from our culture and relocated into museums where it belongs, with words that explain accurately what is was, wasn’t, is and is not. May humanity heal, and may we overcome.

    I do love the south, and do not believe racism is our problem exclusively. The beauty, grace and charm are real for me, but so is the horrific history and undercurrent of racism and arrogance, the seedy underbelly of our lives. It’s way past time to lay it down, act inclusively, and get intentional about healing. Choose love, not fear. The change, if it is to occur, must start within each of us.

    I understand the conversation is, really, about a white man opening fire on Bible Study in an AME church, and racism often unspoken but still present. The conversation should not be about a flag, but about the tragedy of hatred, violence, terror and loss of life. But the flag has become part of the rallying cry for the forces of white supremacy and hate, and so it is time to reexamine it’s presence in our culture. As we reexamine our own hearts and actions, look at the details like flags and the bigger picture that is the quality of life we all live, not just south of the Mason-Dixon, but in the USA and on this earth. Every religion tells us to love one another, the Bible tells us to love God with all our minds. Now is a good time to learn how to love with our minds, hearts, and souls. It’s a time to think deeply, and become more deeply selfless and mature. Will someone ease say Amen.

    • Thank you for a beautiful comment, Jody! I admire your capacity for reflection and your willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

    • If you had been a “white child” moving to The North in 1960, you might have been shocked. The “holier than thou Yankees” weren’t too fond of integration, either. I didn’t have a black child in class until 1961. Oh, my! Let’s not speak of that fact, though.

  • Thanks Stephen, you have restored my faith that some people get it.

  • Raised in MS and residing in SC. A refugee and dissenter myself. Great article. One love , y’all.

  • The issue, I think, is what we want most. The “confederate” flag is clearly a symbol with a mixed message. Do we want a symbol that divides more than we want to move toward peace and healing? When symbols (which are, by definition, not the real thing) get in the way of peace and healing, which matters more?

    • Amazing that a piece of cloth keeps some from that “peace and healing”. Destroying statues (like the Taliban and ISIS) and digging up long dead people is soothing for some. Most people who see something they think is “offensive” just look away and ignore. Then…we have the chronically offended.

  • Good post but you made a mistake. You misidentified a flag called The Southern Cross as The Stars and Bars. Check Wikipedia for Flags of the Confederacy to see an image of The Stars and Bars which was the actual confederate flag.

  • The flag that is flying on the state house grounds was a battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia, but isn’t the one referred to as the “Stars and Bars.” The “Stars and Bars” was the first national flag of the Confederacy, the flag under which SC seceded. It had a blue field in the upper left with a circle of seven stars, and then three large horizontal bars- red, white, and red under and to the right of the blue field. Your overall point is very valid though.

  • I believe that we are missing a bigger picture here. Yes this flag may need to be taken down but we are failing to see the environment of TODAY, and what made this young innocent boy turn to hate. I do not believe that it was the environment of yesterday that created it. I believe it is what we are doing today, and today we have a choice. The civil war is often romanticized as patriotism of sorts and to some (not all) people that fly that flag – it does not represent racism, but it is turning that way now. I think this is our inner work as a society. You know inner work – it’s like tearing a house down to the studs, exposing its innards and have all the trash in the yard before rebuilding. It looks ugly but it is improving. It can be rebuilt, or it can be lost. I think that we have finally hit a point that we can effect positive change and heal but it is a hair point trigger for a society that is not taught to see the root of emotions and heal them. We have many blacks that are understandably healing from the hatred of the past but whites have to heal in many ways too but are often taught now that they can’t say, can’t speak of it nor have an opinion or recognize any of their own hardships and lessons to overcome – go into suppression and apologize because you are the bad guy even though most have no recollection, other races are treated poorly and no one cares. We wonder how things get pent up. Both races are ready to blow in many ways. I think focusing on the external things like flag, guns, statues are bandaids, and fighting removal will cause a temper tantrum before real healing will take place. Temper tantrums can be deadly – people fight an emotion that they don’t understand why they feel because they can’t see the root. I’d love to avoid that path, though Im not sure how except small ways individually and to speak up. Perhaps they will at least occur together. We cannot heal one by repressing another. These articles, in my opinion, are one side of the war that is being created in our future. The same – just the opposite side of the coin, but the same. It is missing the root.

  • Mr Ingram,

    A very good article, excepting one major inaccuracy you may wish to correct. The Battle Flag IS NOT the “Stars and Bars”. That is the first National Flag of the CSA.

    The Battle Flag is the “Southern Cross”.

    The Battle Flag is not the same as it was even 35 years ago when the Duke boys had it on the top of the General Lee. It’s appropriation by hate groups is what has turned it into the symbol of hatred it is today. And “honorable” southerners who stood quiet while they did are as culpable.

  • Sorry so many people above have completely missed the point and want to rehash their version of history. We are one nation under one flag and any symbol that divides us needs an honest debate. If we love each other why would we argue over keeping something so tainted and painful.

    • why would you forbid something because some make it hurtful? eventually you will have a bubble and what then will be blamed before looking at the real culprit?

  • As a young person, you were truly given a RE-education by your principal. That was by the grace of God because everyone’s education, like yours, starts at home. From those lessons at school, you now stand firm against hatred and articulate healthy words that welcome change! May we one day all be about change.

  • For historical accuracy it should be noted that the flag being flown at the South Carolina statehouse is not the “Stars and Bars” but is the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The “Stars and Bars” was The first national flag of the Confederate States of America. which most people wouldn’t recognize if they saw it.

  • YES!! Your story is my story, Stephen. Thank you for writing this! I wrote something similar myself if you’d like to read it. http://homeschoolinglifeasweknowit.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-plank-of-racism.html

  • Thank you Stephen. I would stand up and applaud you if I thought you could hear me. 🙂 Your article is EXTREMELY well written. I was a huge fan of the Dukes of Hazzard as a child and always felt confused about why the “General Lee” never bothered me, but seeing the flag displayed in other ways often did. I appreciate you sharing your own history and story as well as the thorough explanation of the dynamic nature of symbols. Blessings to you and your family.

  • Well informed and better stated than most emotionally driven arguments.

  • Well said. Your article contains a powerful message. I will be reading the books I saw on your website. I work with kids and youth in church and feel I can learn a lot from reading your work.

  • Change.org/noconfederateflag

  • Several comments seem to be fixated on the term “stars and bars”. I’ll make this simple, for all parties involved. Then maybe it’ll be easier to focus on the real issues, instead of the semantics of Confederate flag-ology: Look online for a current picture of the state flag of Georgia. THAT is the “stars and bars”, or the first national pattern Confederate flag (albeit with the state coat of arms added). Yes folks…everyday, all over the state of Georgia, the Confederate flag is raised and lowered over public buildings, schools, hospitals, etc., and nobody bats an eye. Interesting how symbolism works. Go figure.

    • Personally – I’ve heard whispers of wanting to change the GA flag. Will be interesting to see what happens with THAT, to see if it gains momentum or dies an appropriate death. I don’t consider that the “confederate” flag. I consider it the GA Flag, thank you very much. 🙂

  • Our childhood experiences were similar. Thank you for this powerful message.

  • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve written, and I appreciate that you have written it. I don’t have any love for the confederate flag and I think people who’d follow their hearts and do what is best. That said, I think that perhaps people are not so much embracing the flag itself, but you might consider that they are clinging to it as a reflection of their concern about the general erosion of our culture. There is no shortage of demagogues and cultural elites who see opportunity to fundamentally change the nature of our society by the utility of labels like “racist”, “homophobe”, “mysogynist”, etc. These terms are cast about so freely, and mostly without merit, with the sole purpose of shaming and silencing people so that only the voice of the demagogue is heard. I think we need to be sensitive to how acutely aware people are of actually losing their heritage and even their fundamental freedoms in this hyper politically correct culture. Thanks for your post.

    • Sorry, but that “heritage” is actually hate as the author states. We have had to amend the constitution, march, die and be imprisoned because supremacy was couched as heritage. It is amazing that such a large group of people are willfully blind and cast themselves as the victims. Thankfully many more people believe in rejecting hate and supporting inclusion. “Changing the nature of our society” actually means getting rid of exclusion and special rights afforded to some, but not others for no other reason than their skin color, race, sexual orientation, gender or socio-economic status. We are lucky to be at a moment in history where people are gaining freedoms, but I can see how a racist culture would construe that as them “losing” something… That something being their ability to hate and discriminate without consequences.

  • Thank you Stephen. Finally a well written, well thought out response to an issue.

    You also eschewed the typical apologetic “WHITE GUILT” path as well which a lot of people are funneled down by the guilt the media heaps upon them.

    Well done.

  • To defend the “Stars and Bars” as a symbol of Southern Heritage and that it has nothing to do with racism is hypocritical and a blatant lie at best. Southern heritage for most of our country’s history has involved black people. How many black people do we think feel that this flag represents or stands for their heritage? 0. So insisting that it is still a symbol of “Southern Heritage” automatically excludes black people, in other words what it really means is that it stands for the “Southern Heritage” of whites only… Excluding blacks… that’s racism.

    For the record, I am white. I have roots in the south a couple generations back. I also have a direct ancestor that died fighting for a cause that would see Black Americans freed from the bondage of slavery. Let us not forget about the white Americans that bled and died fighting for justice, we’re not all haters, please don’t lump us all in with the ugliness, hate, and ignorance of those like Roof.

  • Well written. I’m black and born outside the United States but when I see that flag it makes me very uncomfortable because I know it means only one thing ……hate. I stay away from whomever is flying the flag. I went to a summer festival once and I saw that flag all over people’s trucks and I had to leave since I felt very unsafe there. I can only imagine how black people born in the United States feel when they see it.

  • The Confederate Battle Flag And South Carolina
    June 23, 2015 at 11:16am
    They are showing their true colors, literally. It’s clear that racism is alive and well in South Carolina. And the denial about it is palpable.
    The Confederate Battle Flag, in the words of William T. Thompson, the creator of the Confederacy’s second national flag, which contained the battle flag in it’s corner, was meant to show that “as a people we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.” It could not be more clear. The idea that the flag represented states rights, or that the war was about fighting an invasion, is patent nonsense. The only ‘right’ they were really talking about was their belief in the right to own human beings, and the United States cannot invade itself.
    The cowardly have been hiding in the shadows, but the flag on the South Carolina State House grounds has always been their statement, that their ancestors may have lost the war, and blacks may think they are equal, but the flag expresses the real truth, and their being able to keep it flying proves it.
    Well, now they are coming out of the shadows, and we now see that the Civil War is, after 150 years, still not over.
    President Lincoln tried to promote the idea of “binding up the nations wounds” but he was murdered by a died-hard Confederate sympathizer and racist. We should have read the signs then. Now we will pay the price for not seeing the truth, and for not coming down harder on the secessionist states. We should have destroyed every vestige of the Confederacy, including that damned flag. Displaying it should have been banned, just as the Nazi flag is banned in Germany. There can be no tolerance for a symbol of traitors and the perpetrators of an evil system.
    Rationalization and justification cannot, and will not, change the facts and the truth: the Confederate Battle Flag was, is, and ever shall be a symbol of the belief that the white race is superior to all others, and that the war between the states may have been lost on the battlefield but it did not change the hearts of those who fought for the South, or it’s descendants.
    But all descendants of the Confederacy are not the same. My wife and I are descendants of Confederate veterans, mine owned slaves. And though we respect the fact that they were doing what they thought was right for them at the time, we do not honor their sacrifice or revere those times as part of a heritage to be proud of. On the contrary, we feel that it is our obligation to believe and behave differently than they, and to make sure that the descendants of slaves are treated with a respect that was not afforded by our ancestors to their ancestors.
    It is well passed the time that every American should let go of all vestiges of the Confederacy: flags, statues, and beliefs. It is now time for all symbols of that rebellion to be removed from our modern world and placed in museums, where they can be viewed for what they are: reminders of a sad time, where the Union was almost destroyed, in a disagreement between North and South, over wether it is right for some human beings to own other human beings, in the interest of commerce, and with the justification that one race is superior to another.

    • While I agree with everything else in Stephen’s eloquent post, I do totally agree with you, JRB. There is no room in modern society for public display of the Confederate flag. It does nothing but feed the continuation of hate and prejudice. Yes, Honor your ancestors. Honor your ancestors for the courage to fight but not for their inhumane and murderous cause. Let it be in museums as an example of all the horrible lack of humanity we all sometimes have in our hearts. Let us all be better because of these reminders.

  • No matter how you want to parse the issue… in the end the flag is a symbol of hate too. It is easier to hate than to love. I think it is a symbol of insurrection and of hate. The people then, in the South, were wrong and there is nothing you can say to that point, without being a racist.
    Thus, leaving it up demonstrates how insecure white people are in general about the day when they become the minority. So take it down white people and get over it.

  • Some merit to your post, but why lump everyone who uses a symbol you don’t like into the same pot? Under your arguement if the crackpot was carrying an American flag, a Jewish flag, a Texas flag, or whatever, they would be corrupting and stealing that symbol and none of the rest of us should then use it.
    Why do we let crack pots and extremists define our society?

    • I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I think what he’s saying is for THIS flag it’s too late to save it. We can’t undo the damage of the last 100 years. We, in the south, inadvertently allowed this flag to be used as nothing but a hate filled symbol. It’s because we did not step up that we allowed these “Crack pots and extremists” to define THIS part of our society. So I’d like to think that we would not allow them to fly the American Flag for these reasons, that we would do what the south did not, and stand up and fight for it. In fact, from my own memory, I’m pretty sure the KKK used to fly BOTH flags, and now rarely uses the American Flag because of the flack they received. I could be wrong on that, but it’s what I seem to remember from my own personal southern childhood. As for the generic idea of crack pots and extremists defining society, *sigh*, I wish there WAS an answer to that, but those of us who are not crack pots nor extremist’s, just apparently don’t seem to stand up for our OWN rights enough.

  • Thanks for your moving comment.

    I’d like to know if the principle met with the other boy involved in this episode. And I’d also like to know what kind of relationship – if any – you had with that young boy after the incident and in later grades.

    • Thanks for the question. As I remember he did meet with him as well as he and I together where I apologized and reconciled. We were never great friends but we got along really well and had a good relationship throughout school. Good question!

  • It is a bit disheartening how often we seem chase the symptom of a problem instead of the problem.

    In this case we indirectly, and even directly in some cases, blame the flag flying for someone’s behavior?

    The author rightly points out that the meaning of our symbols can evolve…But surely we can also agree that the same exact symbol does not mean the same exact thing for various people. Surely we can agree there are God-Fearing, America-Loving, non-racist people who have displayed the Confederate Flag without malice. If not, I am heart-broken – because I just loved watching the Dukes Of Hazard as a kid and thought they were kind of neat guys.

    And if the symbol can evolve, from good to bad, why can’t it evolve from bad to good? In my opinion, the tougher – but FAR better road – would be to raise the flag in unity with people of all colors and make it a battle cry that we are in this together and we take what some have used for hate and make it a symbol of unity. That is what free speech is about. Not removing things we disagree with but speaking truth against things with which we disagree.

    But look everyone…

    Inanimate objects only have power on those who give them power or allow them to have power over them.

    An inanimate object of itself can literally do nothing to promote hate, fear, etc. Only in our minds can those objects mean those things. And again, if we evaluate this honestly…we can each have different meanings for the same inanimate object.

    What we seem to do in our culture (in the U.S.) is say, “Let’s remove all the things that we perceive as bad.”

    I say…”Live above those things.”

    It is a false premise to suggest that removing objects or access to objects will improve society if the beliefs behind those acting irresponsibly do not change.

    Can we ask ourselves this honest question?

    What am I personally doing to speak truth to my fellow members of society? What am I personally doing to speak against lies?

    If we are not willing to talk with our fellow humans and be the examples we want them to be, then it seems to me we are simply trying to make ourselves feel better for our unwillingness to be involved by blaming potential symptoms.

    And I get it…some people are just impossible to live with. But that is NOT the majority of people I have come into contact with in my life! And I certainly would believe your experiences with folks is not all that different from mine.

    But, when we take an object like this flag and say, “You can have free speech but wait…that flag is over the line.” We have just reduced free speech for everyone.

    And you may be OK on that with THIS particular object.

    But what happens when leadership in a society eventually takes away something you believe is OK to talk about or display or sell? Where do we draw the line? Who draws the line?

    It really is a slippery slope when we hand over our autonomy.

    Please consider this statement seriously…

    “Freedom is meant to be messy.”

    It is not meant to be this perfect little box where everything is in order. It is meant to have times when we as a people are heartbroken because of the acts of a few individuals who abused their freedoms. Living in freedom means there are times when some individuals who are not interested in being actively involved, helpful members of society steal things from others and take advantage of others.

    But every time we put restrictions in place, there are far-reaching consequences. When we allow the government to tell us what we can or cannot eat…are we not opening Pandora’s Box? And we have given up freedoms on so many fronts. Why do we keep allowing leadership to take our freedoms? Are we really trying to make life “non-messy”?

    And finally, this article makes the statement, “You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence. Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.”

    Consider the implications of that statement.

    It is suggesting that “free speech” is the problem – and that is just a terrible statement.

    This horrible event likely occurred as a result of numerous issues in this boy’s life which could include insanity, but to suggest that the solution which would help prevent these types of events is to sensor what folks around this boy could say to keep him from making things “messy?”

    Freedom is messy…people will say dumb things…people will act in ways that are not appropriate. But we are free. Let’s don’t give up our freedoms because we are afraid some will use those freedoms to act inappropriately.

    Just offering thoughts…no malice intended at all. Thanks for listening.

  • This is a powerful and extremely accurate and poignant article. Well written, and needed to be said and reposted as many times as possible. Kudos to you for having the soul and balls to speak TRUTH to the “heritage” mongers who just don’t get the depth of the symbolism.

  • Mr. Ingram, I applaud your thoughtful and heartfelt essay. I can’t disagree with any of it but I would like to propose something you may have missed. Yes, the meaning of that flag changed over time. It went from a symbol of Southern heritage and a memorial to grandfathers and great grandfathers who gave their lives in that war to being all that you said it was. However, even that (lynchings, Jim Crow, poll taxes, segregation, etc.) was a long time ago. Using your own words “The meaning of symbols are fluid, they are never static” I submit that the meanings you mention are indeed not static and have changed. Very few people alive today had anything at all to do with the horrors you mention. Many honestly and sincerely believe it is part of our Southern heritage; a part that we should remember. It’s a reminder of the most devastating war our country has fought; brother against brother, son against father. This is something that all Americans are still affected by. I don’t fly that flag at my house but I understand why some do and still will. Demonizing the Confederate battle flag will only entrench those who feel strongly that it is a symbol of the South, not a symbol of the KKK or Jim Crow laws. Unfortunately, it will also entrench the ignorant racists, who will be unaffected by any bans of that flag. The problem is that continually fanning the flames, like is being done now nationwide, only creates more fire.

  • Thanks for this eloquent article. The “Stars and Bars” flag is not the only “symbol” that has been trashed and corrupted by hate and violence. This is true of all symbols with any benevolent meaning or heritage. It is a human trait that anything sacred to someone will eventually be associated with something vile and evil. One only needs to look at human history, long past and even very recent to see this in action. Politicians do it every day. How many advertisements do you see every day in which something has been given a wash of another meaning not intended by the original maker. Even in the Bible, there are instances of this type of behavior. It’s a lie, that begins with hate, ignorance and a blind following of what has come before, a “tradition” if you will that people still follow, “just because” that’s the way my Daddy did it. The real tragedy of Humankind is that we forget too easily the lessons that should have been learned eons ago and remembered. One of the reasons to study the Bible is that it points out how humans will act, how they will deceive you, jump to irrational conclusions, and those among us who are driven by hate and evil will use/twist/manipulate those things/symbols we hold dear for our own reasons to stir up some deep rooted fear in us that causes a new meaning to those symbols to be created. Those who forget the past are “doomed” to repeat it. It is with us, all of us everyday, every moment of our lives. Vow to change what is evil inside you to something that promotes the peace of the world. It starts with each individual. We’ve become so afraid, as a society of standing up for good, that it’s become acceptable for these events to happen.

    • I’m not an expert on that flag . I know my black friends find it offensive . For that reason I don’t care for it .

      • I personally think people need to grow up and move on. I’m offended by Che’ Guevera and tons of ignorant people wear shirts glorifying a disgusting murderer. So what? People who are so easily offended need to get their priorities straight and stop whining.

  • What Colour?

    Alex was a forklift driver, moving loads around,
    Thika was a store man, keeping all equipment sound.
    Bennett was a scrum half, who scored an awesome try,
    Bobby cleaned the weaponry to help the missiles fly.

    Caruso was the sergeant, a hard man born to lead,
    Jamie was a corporal, that promotion chasing breed.
    Aldo was the company cook, he rang the Mess Hall bell,
    Danny was their colonel, they’d follow him through hell!

    One day scorching napalm dropped, direct on their position,
    The damage irretrievable; beyond all recognition.
    The aftermath, the price of war, they all knew they were in,
    And no one ever cared or asked, “What colour was their skin?”

    Alex was an Irish lad with a mop of bright red hair,
    Thika came from India, and no one seemed to care.
    Bennett was a Fiji, who came to serve the queen,
    Bobby wore a kilt sometimes and came from Aberdeen.

    Caruso was Jamaican and bellowed it with pride,
    Jamie was from Liverpool, his voice pure Mersey side.
    And Aldo, Welsh Italian, with singing voice of note,
    While Danny was an Oxford don, with ever ready quote.

    One day scorching napalm dropped, direct on their position,
    The damage irretrievable; beyond all recognition.
    The aftermath, the price of war, they all knew they were in,
    And no one ever cared or asked, “What colour was their skin?”

    Written in half an hour during the 2015 six nations rugby final three games
    as I remembered some friends and Bennett in particular.
    The story is fictional, the message loud and clear.
    (C) jfk All rights reserved March 2015.

    Hi Stephen, It’s a young world but we will get there in the end.
    But not in our lifetime. Across the world conflicts continue that are thousands of years old.
    Robert Burns wrote “For a’ that and a’ that’ three hundred years ago, kind of puts it all in a time perspective.

  • Thank you so much for this article. You put to words how I feel on this. God bless you!

  • I was not raised to be racist as my father was in the service of our country and we lived on air force bases most of the time when I was growing up. However, we spent much time in Alabama. I remember starting school on the day “bussing” began. There were state troopers there to enforce the new laws. I went home that day and asked my mother what bussing was and she told me that it is when they take people from one part of town and bus them to school from another part of town. This confused me as I didn’t see why this would cause trouble of the kind I was witnessing.

    I heard the “n” word, or variations of it, many times growing up and used it often as, like the author of the article I was ignorant to any negative connotations as this was a common practice. I remember my Grandmother using the phrase, “colored people.” None of this was ever questioned by me.

    In my teen years, there seemed to be a shift in attitudes as what I would refer to as racial hostility began to come to rise. In my experience, this hostility appeared as several African American young men picking fights with me or young white men. I was forced to have to fight 3 or more people at one time for no other reason than because I appeared to be white. This period reached a climax as the movie Roots was shown on television. I remember a time when white people didn’t send their kids to school on black history day because of the violence that white people would be subjected to on this day. It was a time when I began to use the “n” word in a spiteful way. I fought on a regular basis, not because I was looking for a fight, but because I had no choice but to defend myself.
    Later in life I had an experience with the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. My heart began to change in many ways. The animosity I had toward people in general had to go because the Bible tells me, “If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). I had many people help with this through the years and one man made a tremendous difference by showing me the love and grace of God (An Africian American Pastor). I has not always been easy for me as bitterness is a thing that has to be continually put down in a person’s life. I’m thankful that the grace of God allows me freedom to love everyone.

    I have not spent time thinking on these things in some time as there has been no need. The events in Charleston, SC. Along with the subsequent issue involving the Confederate flag have brought these things to mind. I realized how far I had come yesterday while fishing with friends and one of them identified himself as black. It made me stop and think for, I had never thought of him in that way. I had always just seen him as my friend; as a brother in the Lord. I want to continue to identify him in the same way as I always have. I would do nothing to offend him or anyone else for that matter.

    One more thing, I have not really identified my racial affiliation as of yet other than to say I was identified as white. Racially, I am Saponi (native), Germanic, Eastern European, Paleo Mediterranean, Iberian, and, South Central Asian. I identify as Christian. I strive to live up to that name daily by the grace of God.

  • I’m a believer in “words mean what people think they mean”. I don’t know much about how the confederate flag has been used. For me the question is “how is it being used?” Only the person behind the flag can tell you what they mean by it. Symbols have no intrinsic meaning. I see two sources of information about the origin story of the flag that seem fairly emotional and I have my doubts about both. Personally, people I have encountered that “support” the flag, whatever that means, have usually had thinly veiled xenophobia, racial insensitivity, or were unapologetic racists (latter being more rare). However, the flying of the flag has never seemed to me to be a racist statement, unless it was intended to be one. For most it seems to be a middle finger to government, the perception of over-reaching federal authority.

    I have no intention of flying the flag because people find it offensive and I have no real attachment to it. I, like you, grew up around folks that use it as a tool in a culture war to defensively and symbolically rebut accusations of institutionalized racism. It might seem counterintuitive, but I think by clinging to the symbol in defiance they are rejecting these claims, ignoring them. For me though, I’ve never associated racism with the confederate flag. Were I to fly it, which I will not, I would not mean anything racist by it. Symbols are placeholders for whatever meaning we give them. The flag itself does not mean anything. Its psychological green screen.

    But since racism is systemic and institutionalized, and since the flag causes people who suffer under racism to feel uncomfortable, and since I do not wish to be uncharitable (and since I have no urge to display the confederate flag) I would not wear the flag, or fly it. But I don’t think it is fair to say that all who do are associating the meaning that you associate, that one must possess hatred to be willing to wear or fly it.


    I don’t intend this flippantly, wish you the best.

  • Great post!! One minor correction though: the confederate battle flag is not the “stars and bars”. That phrase refers to the first official flag of the confederacy, i.e. the one with thirteen stars in a circle at the top left and three red/white horizontal bars to their right.

    Notably, the new state flag of Georgia – the one that replaced the version with the battle flag on it (in 2003, if I recall correctly) – is an almost exact copy of the stars and bars. It’s interesting to me how no one seems to have a problem with that. After all, the stars and bars, unlike the battle flag, *officially* represented an overt expression of the belligerent right of confederate states to own other human beings as property.

    As you say, though, meanings for symbols change and the current meanings are the ones we should be most concerned about.

  • and now you can understand what the cross means to those outside of the faith…
    kkk didn’t burn swastikas or rebel flags.
    The cross to most outside of that faith represents THE EXACT SAME THING…
    And then some…
    When I see a cross around your neck I think…
    “Hates minorities, hates gays, hates other religions,hates humanists, hates the poor, hates womens rights, thinks the earth is theirs to destroy… Etc ad infinitum…”
    Most of the current major religions seem like nothing more than hate groups hiding behind religious protections… And their religious books support that perception.
    Which may be bad on me but ya know…
    I can only base my opinion on what the faith shows the world…
    Christianity shows an anti-human face.

  • I take issue with your interpretation of how symbols change. You make it sound like a harmless symbol, once taken on by a harmful group, becomes tarnished forever. Could it be possible that if a symbol is adopted by a “good” (not hate) group, that it changes for the better? Suppose a non-profit that feeds millions of starving children in Africa adopts the Rebel Flag or Swastika as its symbol. Is it perpetuating hate? Conversely, suppose the KKK adopts the LGBT rainbow flag. Is it now a “hate” symbol? Your logic seems flawed to me that once a symbol “changes” by being used for something bad, it is irredeemably bad forever.

  • Peter J. Stankiewicz

    While Mr. Ingram has quite astutely stated, it is the symbol that evolves and makes you full of hate, bigotry and racism if you hold it dear. If that is the case, what about the crucifix or cross? Many Christians have them in their homes and wear them around their neck. Does that make them a bigot or racist and full of hatred because the KKK use that symbol? They burn a cross to instill fear and promote racism on a regular basis. Does your argument on changing symbolism still apply? Should we stop displaying these in churches?

    I am sure a lot of folks will be angry with this reply but I am just carrying the argument further along. You have to look at all symbols that are used for hate, not just the popular ones in the news.

  • Scot Conway, Ph.D., J.D.

    I think you were close. Except for parts of it you end up defaulting all the way to a side that ends up preaching to the choir and not to the people who need to be converted.

    This is the main adjustment I would make. Rather than say “it’s not heritage, it’s hate” I think we are more persuasive when we say “Yes, it’s heritage, and it’s also hate. And whether it’s heritage or not, the fact that it is also hate means something.” That way, when people argue that it’s heritage, you don’t disagree. Sure, it’s heritage. I don’t dispute that. But it’s also hate.

    It put them on the defensive. Now I don’t have to argue heritage. I give them heritage. Then we have to discuss my issue: racism.

    And I don’t even have to win the argument that it’s totally racist, only that it is seen as racist against a significant portion of our own citizens by enough people that it should not be flying over our government buildings.

    I also use the “it has come to mean” argument. That way no one can dust off old campaign material or old habits of the governor of Arkansas. It doesn’t matter. We’re talking about what it has come to mean now.

    Maybe at one time the people who saw it as racist and used it that way were few and far between. But whether or not that’s true for back then, right now is right now, and this is what it has come to mean.

    Sure, it’s heritage. It’s also hate.

    Sure, maybe fewer people took it that way not-so-long-ago, but we’re talking about a government flag flying right here, right now with what it has come to mean now.

    What is better to do?

  • When the Confederate Army fired on and took Fort Sumter, that started the Civil War. The political agenda of President Lincoln was to defend the Constitution and the Union. The prime reason for the Confederacy was to protect slavery, since Southern leaders in Congress had failed to win acceptance of and support for slavery from the non-slave states. If you doubt that, check the Confederacy’s founding documents.

    Turning against and fighting against your own country has long been called treason, whether someone likes that definition or not. It may raise your blood pressure, but that doesn’t mean it is untrue.

  • Excellent essay. I’d like to test your logic. Based on your point, how should the USA flag be treated? Consider what our forefathers did to the Natives; Japanese – American internment in WWII; or the debacle war in Vietnam. American heritage is stained with some awful behavior; what of our symbol then?
    If we could put you in the role of a symbol, someone treated you as dynamic. Your ignorant bigotry changed to conscious views of equality and respect.
    Should you have been taken out of the picture rather than altered for the better?

  • Well done!

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  • Well put! Sweet tea and y’all are heritage.

  • I’m from Virginia. Yes, the flag has meaning to our family because we had relatives that fought for several infantry groups. I do take exception to those that I see that write we should have been killed upon surrender and our lands taken and given to others. You see, my family farmed their land themselves and their children. Our family NEVER owned a slave.

    Racism exists today because of ignorant people not teaching children respect and the ability to get along with others.

    That flag represents history, though unfortunate because of how it is now represented.
    90% of those that fought for the South during the Civil War DID NOT OWN SLAVES!

    To remove the flag from public property, yes I agree with. But to DEMAND to remove monuments in historical cities is akin to ISIS removing Syria’s history. At the rate you all are going, the next thing you’ll want removed is the Statue of Liberty!

    This country is heading to having ISIS planting their flag on the US Capital Grounds because of all this bullshit about a flag that a TERRORIST used in SC to commit murder. HE is responsible for HIS actions. To blame an entire region is just plain WRONG, though I sure not one of you see it that way. I guess you all missed the fact that he also had a SWASTIKA drawn in the sand in front of him as well?

    I am ashamed to be living in this country because I thought we were moving forward; instead the actions of one white supremacy member and you’re throwing all of the Southern States under the bus. Quite honestly, if you don’t like us, then please for the love of God, PLEASE move back where you came from BECAUSE you all are initiating this!

  • But…why does the government have the right to ban a design? This a direct violation of the first amendment. The government cannot and has no right to tell us what is and isnt right. If something is sociallly taboo, that is the society deciding that. The design means different things to different people, and to group that up wih one meaning would be a violation of individual rights. It’s being banned because it hurts some people’s feelings. That is ridiculous, as nobody is forcing anyboy else to wear, raise, or be associated with the design in anyway. Letting personal freedom be infringed because of other peoples’ pereptions of it deserves no validation. To some people, that flag represents the Southern pride and everything the south has to be proud of. To others, it could represent slavery and cruelty. Who is right? Is either opinion more important than the other? Now, to use an analogy….person X is a a novelist and sees pencils as an instrument for creativity and a vehicle to get thougths onto paper.Person Y was stabbed in the eye with a pencil by a bully everyday of their 1st grade life. Person Y has a negative connotation with pencils, and doesn’t like them. Person Y would like to get them banned. The novelists, artists, and teachers protest. The rebuttle to their protest is this: The object that is pencils is offensive to some, so you guys just dont realize how offensive you’re actually being. It might have positive associations to you guys, but not to everybody! So, pencils are hereby banned. ….Is this just? Is the design forcing people to commit racial acts and acts of prejudice? No, it is only a design. People are fully capable of living in a society where there are whirlwinds of different opinions and an abundiance of things that mean different things to different people. And as long as nobody is commiting any unlawful crimes because of it, they can parade around with any symbol and shout whatever slogan they want. And if they do commit an unlawful act? They will be punished for the unlawful act. However, no symbol or word coerced them into commiting it. People are fully capable of being in control of their actions and being held responsible for them. If somebody hates people who wear their hair in braids everyday or wears red shoes everyday, fine. If that person poked holes in those peoples’ tires due to his hatred for them? Not okay. Banning a design due to possible implications is degrading to us as human beings and implying we have no control over our actions. It is essentially creating a nanny-state because apparently people can’t make their own responsible decisions. It is a crime against the people’s rights.

  • Just do you know… The flag can be lowered. It’s locked in place by the legislature. It was never meant to be lowered for any reason. Now it is being taken down. And it should be.

  • Ironic ? Some are all fired up over the picture of a deranged kid holding a Confederate Flag in a photo. Yes that was the flash point of this discussion which has erupted into courtroom battles and has become the current focus of racial inequality. An inanimate object usually displayed on a stick or pole. And across town in Washington D.C. what is referred to as the highest court in the land has issued the decision that It “shall now be the law of this Country that Same Sex Marriage shall be recognized as legally acceptable” !

    I am confused. Has our planet spun completely out of control ?

    Does the verge of a Religious War seem impossible ? I continue to read of humans having their heads cut off by other humans who do not agree with their beliefs. Also this day there were more accounts of barbaric acts, humans being slaughtered in numbers by terrorists.

    I am concerned and confused over our priorities. I don’t think a flag is going to hurt you and I do not believe as an avowed Christian Country that we needed to disrespect the Bible by defining the meaning of marriage by a law that is contrary to a sacred age old tradition and belief.

    No I have not missed the point. The criteria of love will never change and does not require legislation. And the very essence of life is impermanence. History cannot be expunged and we are certain to be offended during our lives. How we handle heartbreak and disappointment as we are confronted with change will be our legacy.

    The dynamics of Democracy should not include imposed decisions with political motives.

  • thank you for everything in the right light and after reading your summation i truly believe what it`s albout

  • Thank you for this post! My thought has always been that Southerners need a new symbol that unites all residents, so why don’t more people fly state flags? Given that pretty much everyone in my state (Arkansas) seems to have close ties to the state, either being born here or having lots of extended family here, it would be a less divisive way to honor your heritage. In other places I’ve lived people would periodically fly the state flag, and I think that concept needs to catch on here.

  • So well said. My favorite: “subdue the gag reflex of the soul”.

  • Carl,, whatever issues you feel led to the war, they didn’t start the war. The war started when an act of treason was committed and Fort Sumter was fired upon. Taking up arms against one’s country is treason, no matter how you cut it. That’s what started the war, an act of violence committed against Federal troops.

  • Well, Haley, if I designed a bannner with the words “My ancestors killed your ancestors and my people can still mistreat your people any damn time we want,” would it be okay to fly that from the statehouse? Because that’s what the rebel flag means to most black people.

  • Very well put.

  • Thank you. I too have had to navigate my personal heritage between the side of my family that arrived from the Ukraine in 1903, coming through Ellis Island, as part of the great wave of immigrants, and the other side, that arrived on the first ships that landed in Georgia, remained there throughout the slave years and fought and died for the Confederacy and slavery.

    It has long been a personal joke that this liberal is eligible to be a Daughter of the Confederacy, a fact which embarrassed me my whole life, since it unwillingly aligned me with the racists in my family who still freely use nigger to describe other people.

    I understood Ben Affleck’s reaction to the revelation that he had slavers in his family tree. I used to listen to stories of post civil war treatment of blacks with embarrassed revulsion, and I was always more willing to talk about my immigrant relatives than the southern racists in my family’s past.

    Finally, it feels as if I can reclaim all of my heritage. All of it. Because, finally, we can hopefully put it into historical context and begin to move forward together.

    I know racism isn’t dead, I know it isn’t over, but an aggressively virulent phase of it is changing, hopefully ending, and for that I am grateful.

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  • Will said there bud.

  • Where is your article and opinion about the black students walking on the American flag? When does all this nonsense stop? I don’t know anyone who owned a slave, no one is alive anymore that was a slave, black people owned slaves back in the day. What happened to black people back then makes me sick I think it is absolutely disgusting and I’m thankful that it no longer exists. But at what point do we stop paying for something that happened many years ago and that we were not a part of. This is going to keep on until we have a civil war in our own streets instead of working things out and appreciating each other and the value that we all bring to the table. There are good and bad in every race in every country in every culture. We need to stop looking at all white people as black haters we need to stop looking at all black people as white haters and move on to try to make a better world. Enough is enough!

  • The political correct wannab’s have and are trying to make the confederate flag a symbol of hate. It’s a symbol of my heritage nothing more nothing less. I find it curious that there’s never any mention of all the northern slave owners and because of that they don’t say the U.S. Flag is not also a symbol of hate.

    • On March 21, 1861, Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens made a speech that stated very clearly what the cause of the civil war was. These are his words: “The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.” It went on to state: “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” This is what the Confederacy stood for. This is what the Confederate Flag represents, and has always represented.

  • Thank you so much for this post.

  • My thoughts put forward in a most excellent way. Thank you. Will share.

  • Beautiful! Thank you!

  • Outstanding, sir.

  • Read it. What did I get from it? Different things mean different thing to different people. Those meanings can change, be in concert or conflict at any time. I also learned that even within a well intended piece misleading ideas can be supported. One quote is disturbing in the context of the concept of free speech and the belief that the flag is a symbol of heritage. “You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence. Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.” Is that a threat to those who might want the flag as a symbol (meaning regardless)? It reads that way. Still wondering what “juvenilization of free speech” means.

    I lived much of my formative life in Alabama and Georgia. Find that even academic use of racial slurs to be offensive, no matter who they are directed at or who says them, yes, no matter who. Oh, I am white.

    I grew up with people who did not see the flag as a symbol of hate. Don’t think we have a right to tell them what it means to them.

    It’s interesting how many will identify one symbol as having major impact and condemn it but not another.

    At any rate, as the author says, if you chose to keep the symbol go ahead. I, however will not assign a meaning to it, that’s yours to own. And rather than conclude with “You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence. Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.”

    I conclude with, while I am offended if to you it is an expression of hate, in this country I’ll defend your right to express your free speech.

  • I don’t like to see grammar errors either. But with all automatic corrections from all sort of software, sometimes is hard to keep up. You write one thing, and they change to another. It seems those software do analyses of word by word, but not the word in a frase. And that’s why errors show up if we don’t review our writing.
    But about this text, is unecessary to point this out. The outhor wrote one of the most beautiful text I read about this issue, and without hatred in its heart.
    PS.: English is not my mother lenguaje, so I apologize for any mistake I have made.

  • I couldn’t agree more. I grew up much the same way. The first 3 or 4 paragraphs descibe my childhood almost exactly. I wrote a post saying almost the same exact thing on my FB page. I do have to point out, though, as a southerner, you should know the flag in SC and on hats and shirts, the rebel flag, is not the “stars and bars”.

  • I read this caring little about confederate flag & if anything, feeling, personally, to me it is just pride in the South & I’m southern. I know my father was racist but I knew my heart was and am not and I try to ❤️ Everyone. So why should I care about a flag? The flag to me was just from the old south, good, bad, indifferent…..I apologize for my ignorance.

    This perspective changed how I think. Well written & message received. Thanks for the mind shift.

  • Not to belabor the point, but here are some excerpts from the Corner Stone Speech, by the Vice President of the Confederate States of America– Alexander H. Stephens

    …But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. (Consider this statement for a moment.) This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution…[and again] Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. (Let that sink in for a minute.)

    So when you say that the “Flag doesn’t doesn’t represent slavery.” or “The war was not about slavery.” You speak as one who is either unaware or one not holding to the truth of the matter. Make no mistake that the entirety of what the Confederacy represents…its entire existence is rooted in the ideal that Africans, in particular, are contrary to the very dictates of nature when living outside of subjugation within the Confederate brand of society.

    Stated otherwise–Had the Confederacy been victorious or any other scenario where the Confederacy was not put down, life for African Americans would have been one of perpetual slavery…perhaps continuing until this very day.

  • Stephen – This was a very well written article. You make many valid points.

    I love the fact that you stated that symbols are always being redefined but you had left out an enormous point. The Stars And Bars morphed into a symbol of fun-loving rebelliousness, helped by Hollywood.

    I feel badly for the folks who feel strongly about wanting to keep this flag as a symbol of their Southern fun-loving style (think Lynyrd Skynyrd and NASCAR) but exactly to your point, the flag represents so much more of a darker side, and these folks must understand that.

    “I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul” — haha, this is a great observation. I also believe the phrase ‘just sayin” is another sophomoric and spineless method of subduing this same gag reflex!

    Great job.

  • Thank you. Hearts, not laws, hneed to change.

  • The Confederate Battle Flag And South Carolina
    June 23, 2015 at 11:16am
    They are showing their true colors, literally. It’s clear that racism is alive and well in South Carolina. And the denial about it is palpable.
    The Confederate Battle Flag, in the words of William T. Thompson, the creator of the Confederacy’s second national flag, which contained the battle flag in it’s corner, was meant to show that “as a people we are fighting to maintain the heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.” It could not be more clear. The idea that the flag represented states rights, or that the war was about fighting an invasion, is patent nonsense. The only ‘right’ they were really talking about was their belief in the right to own human beings, and the United States cannot invade itself.
    The cowardly have been hiding in the shadows, but the flag on the South Carolina State House grounds has always been their statement, that their ancestors may have lost the war, and blacks may think they are equal, but the flag expresses the real truth, and their being able to keep it flying proves it.
    Well, now they are coming out of the shadows, and we now see that the Civil War is, after 150 years, still not over.
    President Lincoln tried to promote the idea of “binding up the nations wounds” but he was murdered by a died-hard Confederate sympathizer and racist. We should have read the signs then. Now we will pay the price for not seeing the truth, and for not coming down harder on the secessionist states. We should have destroyed every vestige of the Confederacy, including that damned flag. Displaying it should have been banned, just as the Nazi flag is banned in Germany. There can be no tolerance for a symbol of traitors and the perpetrators of an evil system.
    Rationalization and justification cannot, and will not, change the facts and the truth: the Confederate Battle Flag was, is, and ever shall be a symbol of the belief that the white race is superior to all others, and that the war between the states may have been lost on the battlefield but it did not change the hearts of those who fought for the South, or it’s descendants.
    But all descendants of the Confederacy are not the same. My wife and I are descendants of Confederate veterans, mine owned slaves. And though we respect the fact that they were doing what they thought was right for them at the time, we do not honor their sacrifice or revere those times as part of a heritage to be proud of. On the contrary, we feel that it is our obligation to believe and behave differently than they, and to make sure that the descendants of slaves are treated with a respect that was not afforded by our ancestors to their ancestors.
    It is well passed the time that every American should let go of all vestiges of the Confederacy: flags, statues, and beliefs. It is now time for all symbols of that rebellion to be removed from our modern world and placed in museums, where they can be viewed for what they are: reminders of a sad time, where the Union was almost destroyed, in a disagreement between North and South, over wether it is right for some human beings to own other human beings, in the interest of commerce, and with the justification that one race is superior to another.


  • Thank you for this–a great article and statement. I want to share it out to Facebook, but, ironically, I can’t without posting the Confederate flag on my Facebook page. Any chance of adding a second or alternate image for those of us who might not want someone to take the visual at a wrong face value?

  • It is wonderful you were redirected by your caring, humane educator to understand early developed prejudicial attitudes. However, you missed something in the evaluation of the swastika as an example of symbolism. I feel I should defend the Buddhist version of the symbol as it is NOT the same symbol as the Nazi swastika. It was adopted and changed, turned, and the arms on it reversed by the Nazis. It means auspicious to the Buddhists and was adopted from ancient Sanskrit use by Buddhism. I researched the symbol after seeing it on a Buddhist statue and wondering what the history was. I think it’s important to note the difference if using such a differently and contrasting symbol which is not the same at all upon another look at comparing them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika

  • I’ve never been to the South. As a Californian I associate the Stars and Bars with Hells Angels and other criminal and low life types. But it has given me permission to feel prejudice against Southern white people, something that surprises me when I meet a Southerner and almost always find them to be incredibly gracious, polite, friendly, and civilized. That flag, however, has made it sometimes difficult not to think of Southern whites as ALL a bunch of dumb-ass, racist rednecks, even though I know better. I’m glad the Old Stupid flag is coming down. It’s time for all of us to grow up and get real.

  • Thank you for writing this and sharing your heart. God bless!

  • History or not. My only question is if he had taken pictures with the American Flag instead of the the confederate ‘Rebel’ Flag. Would we be taking down the American Flag everywhere because its symbolism had suddenly changed? I think not. One act by an idiotic young kid did nothing to ‘change’ our view of anything. If he had taken pictures of the Canadian flag, would we be going to war suddenly with Canda? If he took a picture with the Marine symbol, would we be attacking marines? NO … THAT is idiotic.

    • Norman, the US flag was not, generally, held up as a symbol for people fighting for the “right” to own slaves and treat them as inferiors. Nor was it adopted by the KKK or other white supremest groups to represent their cause. Perhaps to some, the confederate battle flag means fighting for freedom and values, or standing up to would be oppressors, and such people can continue to fly the flag as they wish, on their own property. But for a government to proudly fly a flag that is hurtful to so many people on public lands and buildings that are supposed to be representing everyone, it is thoughtless, if not cruel. To the vast majority of people in the US (and around the world), the confederate flag does, and always has, demonstrated support for racism….end of story.

  • Well said, and an admirable point of view. Personally, I feel if you are going to hate one flag, you should dig a bit deeper and hate all flags, as they all exclude,. This is us and that is you. This is mine and that yours. I belong here and you do not. If symbols are indeed fluid, let them flow, together.

  • Such an excellent essay on this topic. Thank you for so clearly defining the truth of this situation.

  • I mean he also burned an American flag

  • Traitors flag period.

  • But… when it was a flag used by the confederate states, and a part of history in that war, should it be banned from the civil war battlefields and forgotten sbout? Why should part of history be erased, because like it or not, it is part of our history, our ancestors lives. Why should the swastika be allowed, but not the stars and bars? How is it right to erase that part of history, to ban American history?

  • «Posts were shared explaining in great detail how the civil war was not about slavery, “only 1/4 to 1/3 of southerners even owned slaves” cites one story.
    I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul.
    Contrary to what you might think, I am not here to argue with these historical claims.»

    It’s true that most people didn’t own slaves. Slavery was the “big business” of the time, and of course, the owners are not going to be out on the battlefield. They’re the ones being protected by the fighters. Just like today big business is the “few”, who often get defended by the same people defending this so-called “heritage”.
    A big part of the tactic the whole time was to divide the lower classes, and have them blaming each other, and one side to see its salvation in the corporate elite. They would pull us all up, if only the government would stop limiting them in order to give things (whether freedoms, or assistance) to these undeserving “takers”.

    The race issue was essentially and primarily economic from the plantations to today!

  • Great article, thank you. What a fortunate person you are to have had such a brilliant educator in your life, a real true Educator. Wonderful how the seeds planted by him have blossomed in you, and now you are planting your own seeds, like this article. Kudos! This is a human using his life to grow and progress. If we were all committed to that path, this world would be paradise.

  • Thank you!

  • Today I cried, for your honesty, and my people Thank you for blessing the future with hope

  • In the words of William T. Thompson, who designed the “Stainless Banner” that first featured the southern cross pattern:

    As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.

    So yes, it was all about white supremacy from the beginning. There was no time in the history of that flag where it stood for anything different.

  • Thank you for saying everything I feel.

  • You beautifully stated what has been tumbling around in my head for the past couple of weeks.

  • Thank you for your insight. I to grew up having to hear that horible word and still hear it occasionally and I immediately interject.

  • Nicely said.

  • Very well said!!

  • Well done.

  • Exactly what I’ve been saying. I was raised with “The south will rise again”, and while it was a bit less on the racism than you experienced, it was there, more subtle. Great job at putting into words what I’ve been saying – the flag no longer holds the meaning it once did. It’s sad. We in the south allowed this to happen when we refused to rip it away from the KKK when they started using it as a symbol of their hate filled organization. Therefore we must take responsibility, and allow it to be respectfully lowered, and relegated to the hallowed halls of museums. And yes, there is always a consequence to free speech, be it about yelling fire in a filled movie theater, or waving the flag that was once so great. A great article. Thank you.

  • Mr. Ingram, I did not take time to read every post. So if you’ve answered this question before I apologize. I’d be interested to know, based on the class you took, to know how you think the symbol of the cross has evolved. I would think it has been fairly constant as a symbol of Christianity. I am from Colorado, so the southern flag issue does not resonate with me . I have only seen it in books. I agree with you though, I think it should stay in history books, movies and museums. I found your article fascinating. Thank you.

  • I really enjoyed this Stephen. As always you are right on the money when it comes to these things! As one of your youth I can’t thank you enough for writing posts like this and fostering an environment where it is okay to talk about these tough issues. The support you have shown to me as I develop my views on the world around me has not gone unappreciated! Thanks!

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Stephen Ingram is an Author, Speaker, Consultant & Student Ministry Expert. His books include Organic Student Ministry, ExtraOrdinary Time & Hollow Faith.

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