Although the Confederate flag has been considered controversial for a long time, current events and social movements have Americans rejecting the symbol more and more. Currently, many people interpret the flag in different ways, causing problems. Some simply see it as southern heritage, while others believe it promotes the ideas of slavery and white supremacy. It is important to look back in history and try to understand the origins of the flag, and what it has shaped into today.
For context, the Confederate flag was developed in the Civil War as America split into the Union and Confederacy. This war started in 1861 when the North/Union fought against the South/Confederacy to abolish slavery. Although there were other important disagreements between the North and the South at the time, slavery is recognized as the main disagreement and overall catalyst for war.
There were three different Confederate flag designs, and the one used from 1861-63 was abandoned because many believed it was too similar to the traditional American flag. The second and third designs include the traditional flag design seen in America today, but with some changes. The blue “X” with stars and red background is what is commonly used in modern times, which by itself was never the officially recognized symbol of the Confederates during the Civil War.
Many different groups have reclaimed the symbol, citing the first amendment: freedom of speech. In World War II, groups of mostly southern soldiers would fly the Confederate flag to celebrate their victories. Because of this, multitudes of people within the military will still defend the use of the flag and attempt to separate it from its past.
As mentioned before, many who fly the flag today claim that it does not stand for hate nor racism, but for recognition of history and its ancestors. Although, it is hard to deny that many within the Confederacy were blatantly racist. The vice president of the confederacy from 1861-1865 and later Governor of Georgia, Alexander H. Stephens, was one politician from the South who made his racism clear.
Although Stephens attempted to later distance himself from past statements, he made bold claims within his Cornerstone Speech in 1861:
“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.”
Due to these racist ideals connected with the flag, hate groups like the KKK have been flying it to promote white supremacy. This causes many citizens to reject it and find it offensive, including Penn State student, Jada Furtick. Furtick lives in South Carolina, so the flag is not difficult to come by.
“Honestly, living in the south you see it so much. Obviously it makes you mad, but also I’m so used to seeing it now. You drive down any back road and it’s flying outside someone’s house. It is so annoying because it is so common but weird to see people so supportive of racism and their racist heritage. Their flag literally represents losing and hate… I don’t know how someone can openly fly it,” Furtick says.
Many citizens see the symbol as supporting white supremacy and racism, as it was created to discriminate against black people.
Opinions like this have become common enough to have certain groups get rid of the flag, including Mississippi. On June 30, 2020, the state government retired the flag they have used since 2001 as it included the confederate symbol. They have yet to create a new design.
VALLEY encourages all to educate themselves on current issues and controversial topics. There is a vast amount of information and history on this subject that should be recognized before deciding to fly the Confederate flag.