Filip Bondy’s "Flagging the flag"
Your article "Flagging the flag" contains errors:
ERROR OF FACT:
The emblem on the former Georgia flag is the Confederate Battle Flag, a/k/a The Southern Cross. The Stars and Bars was the nickname of the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America. It had three wide bars in red-white-red where the US Flag has thirteen narrow stripes, and it had an almost square blue canton with large white stars in a circle.
FIRST: Racism is defined as the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others
Many people believe that the Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol of racism because some groups — such as the Ku Kluxers and the American Nazi Party — that make no bones about their belief in the inherent superiority of the Caucasian race and its right to domination over others display that Flag.
Such groups also sometimes display the United States Flag. Moreover, other people display the Confederate Battle Flag for other, benign reasons. A flag, or any other symbol, has only such meaning as is assigned to it by those who use it.
The Confederate States of America never advocated as a national policy anything resembling a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others. That nation spent its entire four year existence battling for its survival. Moreover, several different ethnic groups contributed to its struggle for survival.
While Confederate Flags were not used during the existence of the Confederate States of America to carry out actions designed to further a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others, other flags have been so utilized over the years:
The one best example of a flag under which one race asserted its superiority and its right to dominate others is the flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a/k/a the Union Jack. Under this flag, the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, Australia, various islands, and large parts of Africa and Greater Asia were subjugated. Many slaves, African and otherwise, were transported by ships flying this flag or a variation thereof.
Under the tricolor of France, various islands and large parts of Africa were “colonized.”
Under the flags of India, Mexico, and Turkey, ethnic minorities within those countries’ borders were hunted down and killed.
Under the flag of the United States of America, a/k/a Old Glory, various leaders waged aggressive wars of conquest against various nations and peoples during the 1800s. Military commanders under this flag repeatedly encouraged murder, rapine, plunder, and other atrocities against those they attacked. Vast numbers of slaves were transported under this flag (most of them to the West Indies and South America).
The aboriginal peoples of no continent or island were subjugated under a Confederate flag.
No ethnic group was ever hunted down and killed under a Confederate flag’s authority.
No slave ship ever sailed under a Confederate flag.
No Confederate flag ever oversaw any attempt at colonization.
No aggressive war of conquest was ever prosecuted under a Confederate flag.
No military commander serving under a Confederate flag ever encouraged atrocities against the enemy.
…so how can Confederate flags honestly be called symbols of racism?
SECOND: The flag that we know as the Confederate Battle Flag was used by many (but by no means all) Confederate military units during the War for Southern Independence (1861-1865). It was their flag, and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning.
When the War was over, the Confederate soldiers became Confederate veterans. They formed an organization known as the United Confederate Veterans. The Confederate Battle Flag was still their Flag, and they alone had the right to interpret its meaning.
In 1896, since many of the Confederate veterans were aged, infirm, and dying off, the Sons of Confederate Veterans was formed as the successor organization to the United Confederate Veterans. The legacy and authority of the United Confederate Veterans was transferred to them over the next ten years. This transfer of power culminated in a speech given 25 April 1906 at New Orleans, Louisiana by Stephen Dill Lee, Confederate lieutenant-general, and commander-in-chief of the United Confederate Veterans:
To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish. Are you also ready to die for your country? Is your life worthy to be remembered along with theirs? Do you choose for yourself this greatness of soul?
Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves are triumph and defeat.
Since 25 April 1906, therefore, the Confederate Battle Flag has been the flag of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. They alone have the right to interpret its meaning. They have interpreted its meaning, and explained (repeatedly!) that meaning – and it is not hatred, nor is it bigotry.
The Confederate Battle Flag is not the flag of the Kluxers and other malcontents of their ilk. They do not have the right to interpret its meaning, nor do they have the right to use it for their sordid purposes.
The Confederate Battle Flag is not the flag of the NAACP. They do not have the right to interpret its meaning.
The Confederate Battle Flag is not your flag, Mr. Bondy. You do not have the right to interpret its meaning. Your commentary, therefore, is out of order.
Now that you have been informed, you might do one of several things:
1. Since you are now enlightened, you might write a follow-up article to retract your previous article.
2. Now that you know that various flags were used for racist purposes, you might write an article attacking these State flags on the same basis as you attacked the Mississippi flag:
Hawaii (its canton is the British Union Jack)
Iowa (it is blue-white-red like the French Tricolor)
3. You might do nothing, or reiterate your objections to the Confederate Battle Flag. Of course, doing so would be an open admission that you yourself are a prejudiced bigot.
PREJUDICE: Unreasonable predilection for or objection against something; or an opinion or leaning adverse to anything without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge; or an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics; or an opinion or judgment formed beforehand or without due examination.
BIGOTRY: Obstinate and unreasoning attachment to one’s own belief and opinions with intolerance of beliefs opposed to them.
[both definitions taken from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.; 1981)]
As for the Mississippi flag: You may be interested to know that on 17 April 2001, the people of Mississippi voted 65% to 35% to keep the flag that included the Southern Cross in the canton. Exit polls indicated that some 20% of Caucasians voted against the Southern Cross flag, while in predominantly black precincts the vote was evenly split.
Clifton Palmer McLendon