It was just past midnight. I had worked well past my scheduled time, and as gratitude for that my boss offered me a ride home. I accepted.
We approached his car, a teal Pontiac Grand Am flying a confederate flag. I knew what the confederate flag was, of course, but had never actually seen it smeared upon a vehicle before.
We got in and buckled our seatbelts.
After turning the key in the ignition, my boss pulled a nightstick from a pocket in his car door, one just like a police officer would wield, and with a crooked grin announced, “This is my nigger beater.”
I didn’t know what to say. Never before had I been faced with such blatant racism. A million thoughts swarmed through my head like bees in a hive, but none of those thoughts led to words. I’m not often shocked into silence, but that night I was. I never got in a car with him again.
I’m a little irritated. You see, there’s been another mass murder in my country. I normally refrain from commenting on such atrocities because pleas for gun control seem to fall on deaf ears. Guns are a big business in this country and as long as they keep funneling money to politicians gun laws will never change.
This barbarity, however, was racially motivated and has sparked a debate about the confederate flag. Is it a symbol of bigotry? Depends who you ask. Some folks will tell you it’s a symbol of southern pride. Of tradition. Or that it’s a symbol for states’ rights.
This all has me a little irritated. Most people would tell you it’s a racist symbol, and I agree.
I’ve had more than one person tell me that the Civil War was not fought over slavery, but over states’ rights. Outside of the Bill of Rights, I’ve been told, the states are supposed to govern themselves without interference from the federal government. That last is true, of course. I, however, learned in school that the Civil War was fought because the south didn’t want to give up their slaves. I just assumed everyone else had been taught the same thing I had.
Turns out that, on the surface, the Civil War was technically about states’ rights. You see, Abraham Lincoln made it pretty clear that he intended to abolish slavery if elected, and that would have infringed upon the rights of the 15 states who’d legalized slavery. South Carolina wasted no time seceding from the union (the first state to do so), and in their declaration made it abundantly clear that their rights as slaveholders were the reason why.
So you see, it was about states’ rights, and the right they seceded to protect was the right to own slaves. People. Mothers. Fathers. Sons. Daughters. They wanted to own people. I cannot even imagine such a fucked up society.
South Carolina’s declaration goes on and on about how the northern states and the federal government had overstepped the boundaries of the Constitution by harboring escaped slaves and threatening to outlaw slavery, but never once does it mention the United States’ declaration to England (which was written by a lot of the same people who drafted the Constitution) which says that all men were created equal. I’m no genius, but I’m pretty sure if one man owns another man there’s no equality there.
The confederate flag became the symbol of the south during the Civil War. The confederate forces flew that flag into battle. It represented a rogue nation who believed it was their right to own people. Black people, to be specific. For that reason, anything representing the confederacy absolutely sickens me.
I know there are people who believe that our federal government has become big. Unwieldy. There are some who believe that states should be free to govern themselves. Those people do have valid points. However, justifying the flight of the confederate flag as a representation of states’ rights or southern tradition is just ludicrous. It is not in question what “right” the south fought for. They did not even attempt to hide it. They tried to form their own country, represented by the confederate flag, all in the name of slavery.
Frankly, it is time for the confederate flag to disappear. You may believe it represents southern pride. You may believe it represents states’ rights. You may even believe it represents southern tradition. The fact of the matter is, though, that an illegitimate government flew that flag while fighting for the “right” to own black people. That flag should not be flying on any government property, state or federal. Ideally, it wouldn’t fly anywhere. It is a symbol of inhumanity.