COMMENTARY – Enemies in our midst
Matt Gillum
May 13, 2004

Isn’t it pretty to think that students at Duke University are not bigots or fools? Unfortunately, some are both, and invariably other students suffer the misfortune of living beside them. Last week, as a friend and I were leaving a nearly vacant residence hall, we saw a cooler sitting in a fraternity commons in plain view from the public hallway featuring a painted Confederate battle flag on its top above some lettering advertising an "Old South Party" that certainly brought joy and gonorrhea to the fraternal order of rednecks and their misuses sometime during early April. Tempers shakily in check, we started looking at the pictures on the wall, discovering an unsurprising paucity of pigment and an equally unsurprising abundance of men with Roman numerals after their names. But as time passed, I had second thoughts about my reaction. Could it be possible, as one of my white friends suggested, that the Confederate flag is simply a symbol of Southern heritage?

Patrick Buchanan, the ultraconservative darling of elderly Jewish voters in Florida, argued for this interpretation in a December 2003 article called "Vilifying Southern Heritage," in which he claims that displaying the battle flag says: "We love our Southern heritage and shall never forget our ancestors who fought and died under this flag."

But this is disingenuous. Germans and Italians whose beloved parents perished fighting for Fascism do not honor their legacy in significant numbers by parading about with swastikas and armbands. Flags do not honor individuals. Flags honor regimes. And the Confederate flag honors the racist Confederate States of America.

Moreover, Buchanan’s argument states that the Christian cross has been used as a means for effecting racial intimidation but has obviously not lost its principal symbolic value is an example of analogizing on crack: the cross and the Confederate flag are conceptually incommensurable. The cross is much older and only recently has been used to intimidate blacks, though it has an extensive history of intimidating Arabs and Jews. In any event, its symbolic legacy is too long and rich to be usurped by subnormal bumpkins. Yet the Confederate flag was devised comparatively recently to represent a political entity with explicitly discriminatory social policies. Buchanan has resorted to the illogic of scoundrels. As the famous aphorism goes: when ideas fail, words come in very handy.

The fact that the Confederate battle flag represents the Confederate States of America is not negotiable; it is history. And for what did the Confederacy stand? Commentator Reggie Fullwood, writing in the Jacksonville Free Press, invites us to read the Confederate constitution: "The citizens of each state shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several states and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired."

He also directs the reader to a speech given by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens: "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea

[in the U.S. Constitution that all men are created equal]; 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."

Somehow it seems the flag of a regime that endorsed slavery and racial inequality cannot avoid racist taint. If Southern heritage is really the issue, why not valorize Jamestown, or William Faulkner, or any of the musical brilliance that originated in the South? To this Coloradoan, displaying the Confederate battle flag smacks of racial triumphalism and deliberate harassment, an unambiguous way of reminding blacks about the way things used to be and the displayer’s nostalgia for that dead era. Why rally heritage around a symbol Strom Thurmond carried while agitating for segregation? Why rally history around a symbol that has flown over innumerable Ku Klux Klan rallies and lynchings? Proponents of this argument do not even believe themselves.

But what really shocks me is that this party could happen without inspiring any student notice or protest. In other circles, people pay attention to the Confederate battle flag and recognize its menacing connotations, and this includes federal judges. In fact, on May 30, 2003, The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court decision which affirmed the legality of firing a man for displaying the Confederate battle flag on his toolbox at work in violation of his company’s anti-harassment policy.

Duke, too, has an anti-harassment policy. According to the Office of Institutional Equity, "Harassment is the creation of a hostile or intimidating environment, in which verbal or physical conduct, because of its severity and/or persistence, is likely to interfere significantly with an individual’s work or education." I can’t imagine why this policy explicitly excludes written harassment (Is it okay to scrawl racial slurs on someone’s door?) and in this form seems utterly ridiculous; I am led to conclude that the University regards some forms of written or drawn material as unacceptable. Leaving a cooler painted with a racist symbol in a public space in a dormitory, where it is not optional to live, seems to be a violation of this policy and–legally speaking–is similar to the case recently decided by the Fourth Circuit, since black members of the custodial staff are responsible for cleaning our dormitory and in the process will surely encounter that symbol.

Nor is this a matter of free speech. In a living space like a residence hall, the University has a compelling interest in keeping the peace between residents that supercedes the right students have to display racially offensive material. A Confederate battle flag in a dormitory is indefensible; it is an invitation to violence–fighting words. It is divisive, and it is wrong. Gentlemen: Y’all can go to hell. For your sake, I wish it existed.



Editor’s note: In the past week The Chronicle has received a barrage of letters in response to Matt Gillum’s May 13 column, "Enemies in our midst." Printed below are two letters, as well as a commentary from Gillum clarifying statements made in the original column.

June 10, 2004


It was with great enmity that I read Gillum’s column. As a proud Southerner, hearing myself and my friends and family referred to as "the fraternal order of rednecks" doesn’t sit well with me. The odious ignorance of fact and Kindergarten level history espoused by Gillum was a worthless use of paper.

Firstly, the inane idea that Southerners should put aside the Confederate flag because hate groups have hijacked it in their efforts to intimidate minorities is only applicable if Mr. Gillum would like to say the same about the American flag, which research shows is found in 10 times as many Klan rally photographs as the Confederate flag. Remember, the Confederate flag never flew over a slave ship, but instead it was the American flag that did so. The Confederate Constitution was the first to ban the slave trade (something that the U.S. Constitution did not do.)

Also realize that General Robert E. Lee (Commander of Confederate forces) did not own slaves, whereas General Ulysses S. Grant on the Yankee side owned slaves up until the end of the war.

When I fly the Confederate flag I harbor no feeling of racial superiority. Instead, I feel pride well up inside of me that the same blood that flowed through the veins of my honorable Great-Great-Great- Great-Grandfather, who lost his life fighting to defend the Southern nation flows through my veins today. He owned no slaves and he was hardly a "redneck" as Gillum classifies all Southerners.

Instead, he was a hard working laborer of the land who loved his family and his country. I suppose that’s something that Gillum will never understand unless he decides to move past the innocuous ignorance he communicated regarding the South and it’s culture.

Jacob Swain
John A. Logan College


As a Southern American with Confederate ancestry, I was just as offended by Matt Gillum’s attack on the Confederate Flag as he was by seeing the flag displayed on a fraternity commons cooler on the Duke campus.

Okay, we’re both equally offended. So what does that gain us as Americans who choose to live in the same country together? Absolutely nothing–except the possible furtherance of racial misunderstanding and hatred.

I understand and appreciate that Gillum sees the Confederate flag in a totally different historical light than I do. If Gillum does not like the Confederate flag, that is his right and privilege as a free American. Frankly, I do not care for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Black History Month, but that is also my right as a free American.

The difference between us is that I am willing, as an American who understands the precious gift of freedom, to tolerate and not publicly criticize Gillum’s heritage, but he is evidently unwilling to afford me the same courtesy–reference his published attack on the Confederate flag–which is a meaningful part of my ancestry and family heritage.

I don’t expect Gillum to like me or like my heritage. That is his prerogative. Perhaps I feel the same; but it does look like in this Great Land of Freedom, whether you hail from Colorado or North Carolina, that America is large enough for fellow citizens to treat each other, their cultures and their respective heritages with dignity, tolerance and respect. I try to do that. I wish Gillum would try to do the same.

William I. Berryhill, Jr.
Chief United States Marshal(E/NC), Ret.


The editor graciously granted my request to write a reply to the many letters The Chronicle has received regarding my column about the Confederate flag. Many respondents, acting under the false assumption that I am black, made chilling ad hominem attacks that will not be dignified with ink.

Nevertheless, I would like to address a common factual objection to my piece. With regard to the claim that Ku Klux Klan members principally flew the stars and bars at "events," I agree, but would point out that after 1943 and particularly after 1947-48 their use of the Confederate battle flag expanded dramatically…. But far be it for me to suggest that the column was perfect. I regret the overblown rhetoric and episodic crimes of cant. In particular, I would like to retract the following: "Y’all can go to hell. For your sake I wish it existed." This has no place in print, and I confess it was written in wrath….

Matt Gillum is a Trinity senior and a regular columnist for The Chronicle.


Your reporting on the Confederate Battle flag, displayed and carried into battle during the Northern Invasion, makes for hilarious reading, although I doubt very many people will actually care to read it, since it is not properly labeled "FICTION" or "HUMOR", as it correctly should have been. As for articles relating to Confederate flag history, most folks prefer the truth, not some revisionist, insulting take on history. In addition, your racial slurs, aimed at all Southerners with Confederate heritage is a disgrace. The Duke Chronicle should not allow a forum to be dedicated to such a vile, hatred, racist agenda. Shame on them!!

In case you haven’t learned yet, the "flag of a regime that endorsed slavery and racial inequality", was none other than the U. S. Flag. Not ONE slave ship ever landed in the U.S. under that Confederate flag. However, almost ALL slave ships arrived flying the U.S. flag. Do some research and learn the truth before you open yourself to the criticism sure to come, since you have displayed a lack of historical information. Did you sleep through history class??

To be a "columnist" in the South and not know the truth about the Confederate battle flag is shameful! But to further perpetuate the hatred of the Confederate Battle flag for selfish, personal reasons, is despicable. Grow up!

Katie Scarlett


Though it’s not politically correct for our history books to report, black slaves and free blacks were among the men who fought and died heroically for the cause of the Confederacy. Professor Edward Smith, director of American studies at American University, says Stonewall Jackson had 3,000 fully-equipped black troops scattered throughout his corps at Antietam–the war’s bloodiest battle. Smith calculates that between 60,000 and 93,000 blacks served the Confederacy in some capacity. These black Confederates no more fought to preserve slavery than their successors fought in WWI and WWII to preserve Jim Crow and segregation. They fought because their homeland was attacked.

The flap over the Confederate Battle Flag is not quite as simple as Matt Gillum and the nation’s race experts would like to make it. They want us to believe that the flag is a racist symbol. Yes, racist have used the flag, but racist have also used the Bible and the U.S. flag. Should we get rid of the Bible and lower the U.S. flag? Black civil rights activists and their white liberal supporters who are attacking the Confederate flag have committed a deep, despicable dishonor to our patriotic black ancestors who marched, fought and died for the Confederacy. They don’t deserve this dishonor.

The truth about the flag’s meaning is that it represents the noble effort of the South to resist the Federal government’s unconstitutional efforts to subjugate sovereign states and is the preeminent symbol of resistance to tyranny worldwide.

Think about these random quotes from Charlie Reese: Nobody has the right to censor American history…Nobody has the right to insult the memory of those who died for a noble cause…There is no such thing as a "right to be not offended"…There is nothing about feelings in the Bill of Rights…The people I have a problem with are Whites who, scared somebody might "cause a problem", kiss the foot of any wandering demagogue who says, "I don’t like that historical symbol. It offends me. Take it away"…Life is too short to spend it in the company of cowards…The Confederate battle flag never flew over a slave ship for a single day…

Some refer to the war as "The Lost Cause". I disagree. A Cause which has at its heart the DEFENSE of home and family, the INDEPENDENCE of individual conscience from the tyranny of government, and the FREEDOM to choose methods of work and worship, was not and never can be "The Lost Cause". Indeed, the South need not rise again, for in Spirit and in Truth it has never really fallen. May all our causes be so noble, and our defense of them as courageous, for in this alone lies the preservation of our precious liberty.

Decisions need to be made based upon the truth. The time is past due for us to think for ourselves and quit allowing the media, Hollywood, the educational establishment and the current orthodoxy to do our thinking for us. The Confederate Battle Flag is not a racist symbol and there can be peace and harmony by respecting each other’s heritage.

John Christensen
Cassville, Missouri


It saddened me to read Mr. Gillum’s May 13, 2004 editorial viciously attacking Americans of Confederate heritage. If further saddened me to read that young Mr. Gillum is engaging in one of the editorial pursuits usually reserved for journalists who are too lazy to engage their native intelligence and write about anything of substance. Instead, Mr. Gillum resorted to that disturbing trend amongst pseudo-editorialists of attacking someone or something the writer personally believes is universally reviled. In this case, Mr. Gillum mistakenly chose to personally attack Southerners, members of the Kappa Alpha Order, the Confederate Flag, and my Constitutional rights. At the same time, Mr. Gillum managed to greatly insult African Americans, Duke University, God, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Through his editorial, Mr. Gillum not only showed his complete ignorance of American constitutional law as it existed in 1860, he revealed an obvious lack of even a fundamental understanding of modern American constitutional law. For example, Mr. Gillum alludes to, but does not cite, a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision he reports was issued on May 30, 2002 in which the Fourth Circuit reportedly "upheld a lower court decision which affirmed the legality of firing a man for displaying the Confederate battle flag on his toolbox at work in violation of his company’s anti-harassment policy." This is misrepresentation at its very worst.

The Fourth Circuit did not issue any such opinion on May 30, 2002, and the court has never issued an opinion on those facts. The court did consider an appeal of a South Carolina state court case, Dixon v. Coburg Dairy, Inc., (4th Cir. 2004), which contained facts similar to those described by Mr. Gillum. However, the Fourth Circuit did not affirm that decision. On the contrary, the Fourth Circuit remanded the case back to the South Carolina courts for lack of federal jurisdiction.

"Remand" and "affirm" do not mean the same thing under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In fact, it would be difficult to conceive of two more dichotomous concepts within the ambit of federal jurisprudence. Furthermore, the court did not issue its ruling until May 25, 2004, nearly one year after the date Mr. Gillum cited for the alleged affirmation of the lower court ruling. Mr. Gillum could have easily determined how the Fourth Circuit ruled in this case by simply reading the decision. He either chose not to read the decision, and blindly rely on a third-party’s account of the decision, or worse, he did read the decision and chose to blatantly ignore the clear ruling of the court. A third possibility is that Mr. Gillum has chosen to follow in the footsteps of another infamous Duke University alum, President Richard M. Nixon, who also found interpreting and following the orders of the federal judiciary, and the U.S. Constitution, inconsistent with the means with which he wished to perform the duties of his office. Then again, so did President Abraham Lincoln who ordered the arrest of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney after Lincoln was personally offended by Taney’s scathing opinion in the In Re Merryman decision.

Mr. Gillum’s editorial unequivocally managed to insult African Americans in general, and Southern African Americans in particular. Mr. Gillum states that "blacks" are responsible for "cleaning our dormitory and in the process will surely encounter that symbol [the Confederate flag]." I personally find it difficult to believe that Duke University has an entirely African American janitorial staff cleaning the dormitories of its undergraduates. Furthermore, it is an insulting stereotype to assume that just because someone is a member of the Duke custodial staff, they are necessarily going to be African American. I certainly hope that the determination of whether one is hired as a member of the Duke custodial staff is not predicated on an applicant’s being African American. If that is the case, Mr. Gillum, Duke has much more significant issues that you should be writing about than the Confederate flag. Perhaps one should consider why, in 2004, a senior at Duke University still considers all Southerners of Confederate ancestry "rednecks," and assumes all of Duke’s janitors are African American, or "blacks" as Mr. Gillum calls them.

Mr. Gillum thoroughly insults African Americans of Confederate ancestry, such as the immediate past president of the Asheville, NC NAACP, Mr. H.K. Edgerton, by proposing his own conception that African American Southerners in the Civil War were somehow unified in their opposition to the Confederacy or the Southern war effort. Mr. Gillum’s view can only be maintained by ignoring a mass of research materials that strongly suggests that African American opinion, like other opinion, was represented across the spectrum, and was strongly influenced by sectional, local, and family loyalties which have largely disappeared in the modern world, but which were of paramount importance in the nineteenth century. Many African Americans, free and slave, considered themselves Southerners first and "black" second, and served the Southern cause enthusiastically. I commend to Mr. Gillum, before he composes another editorial which serves no other purpose but to reveal his vast ignorance, to read the following: "Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia," by Ervin L. Jordan; "Black Southerners in Confederate Armies," by J.H. Segars; "Black Southerners In Gray," by Andrew W. Bergeron; and "Forgotten Confederates: An Anthology About Black Southerners," by Kelly Barrow.

Lastly, Mr. Gillum calls the Confederate flag "indefensible, "an invitation to violence," "fighting words." If I remember correctly, I saw these exact same phrases in my first year law school torts book. Ironically, Mr. Gillum then tells me, and all other Southerners of Confederate ancestry, to "[g]o to hell..for your sake, I wish it existed." Now, Mr. Gillum, two things I know for certain are (1) telling someone to "go to hell" are fighting words and would require a Southerner to do what is known as "open up a can of whoop ass" on the party that spoke them, and (2) if you’re a Christian you know there is a God and that hell exists. By the way, "open up a can of whoop ass" is a Southern term of art that should not be interpreted by its plain language.

On that note, I commend one last thing to young Mr. Gillum, the motto of the Confederacy was "Deo Vindice." I will save Mr. Gillum a trip to his Latin dictionary, the translation is "God Vindicates." All Southerners can take comfort in knowing that God is vindicating the South’s suffering right now on those that unjustly took up arms against it, and someday, Mr. Gillum, God will vindicate all of us "rednecks" when he introduces you to that place you don’t think exists.

J. HIckmon
Protector of the Constitution
Charlotte, NC


I read Mr. Gillum’s column "Enemies in our Midst". While significant space could be spent to refute almost every claim he makes, on one point he is correct.

The Confederate Flag represents a nation which lasted four years, The Confederate States of America. It is the heritage of every southerner, white, red and black; protestant, jew, and catholic. That heritage binds us together and should be celebrated, not suppressed. It was generally accepted, until the NAACP began its ambitious campaign to erase the Confederacy from the public consiousness, and created the present furor.

I will point out only one of his incorrect statements. Contrary to his assertions, when the KKK was revived during world war I, it flew the US flag, and opposed many of the very groups–including jews and catholics– which were so much a part of the Confederacy. I feel certain that if any flag was present at a lynching, it was the US flag. The only exception would be perhaps in one of Mr. Lee’s propaganda flicks or Alex Haley or some other writer’s piece of fiction.

Mr. Gillum’s piece is filled with untruths and with hate. He has every right to promote them. I would never deny him the right to express his views, a right he seems to passionately want to deny to others.

His position on the flag echoes the NAACP, which wants to erase the confederate flag from public property.

Randolph Phillips,
AB, History, Publisher, Campaign Georgia
online journalist
Shiloh, Georgia


This hate filled article is the result of ignorance concerning American history.

First The Confederacy left the voluntary compact of the Union, to prevent Northern dominance, (which was happening) Second Slavery was legal in the Capitol of the North (DC), until 1862. (South Carolina left in 1860). This means Pres. Lincoln could see slaves in chains walking down Pennsylvania Ave, visit the fugitive slaves in the jails or slave markets in the Capitol of the North. Third [quote]

"Nothing could be more absurd," commented the British Quarterly Review, "than to fix upon many millions of people, the great majority of whom had nothing to do with slavery, the sentence or epithet of a speaker expressing an individual view, on his own responsibility." It added the observation that there was in the Confederate Constitution "not a single provision for the protection of slavery which does not also exist in the Federal Constitution."

Source-"Jefferson Davis,the Real and the Unreal"-Joseph McElroy- copyright-1937,1995-ISBN-0-8317-1007-1(SMITHMARK Publishers)-page-280

Finally, Mr. Gillum would do well to go back and read history books. As it is now, he’s embarrasing himself.

Lamont Sible Jr.


The correspondents who preceded me have pretty well covered the historical shortcomings of your divisive slur on your fellow students and their ancestors. I hope, therefore, you will forgive what you may consider an ad hominem attack. As I do not intend it such. I hope you will accept my reply as well considered advice from an old man. I ask that you will endeavor to appreciate the fact that you cannot apply today’s mentality when judging that of another time; it will seldom translate.

I ask that you study American history in order to appreciate the horrors that North Carolinians, of all colors and conditions endured at the hands of the Northern invaders both during and after the war. As the study of history implies a search for the truth, you will want to rise above your ignorance. Also as a history student, perhaps you will learn of the great sacrifice North Carolina laid upon the altar of liberty; no other state, North or South exceeded its loss of life, property and freedom.

I ask that you consider this when you treat your fellows as you have done in your article. To compare their fathers to Nazis and Fascists surely exceeds any definition of the word "shameful," and it is, in no way, warranted.

I ask that while you reside in North Carolina you allow those gracious people to teach you manners, and the ways of polite society. Manners and decorum will serve you well for the rest of your life. Finally, I pray that you will learn to appreciate the flag you’ve reviled. It remains a symbol of liberty, one still raised today, by oppressed people throughout the world. It does not deserve the ignorant and hateful manner with which you’ve treated it.

Morris Hart
Oklahoma City


Mr. Gillum’s commentary is deeply troubling. It appears that he does not believe there is a hell. This is the worst of many mistakes to be found in his hate filled words. I would urge him to seek the salvation offered by Jesus. Without salvation, he can only face eternal torment. Concerning his comments on the Confederate Battle flag, it was not the flag of the Confederate government. It was the flag of some of its military units. He might also be surprised to find out that the United States was more racist than the Confederate States. The United States flag has flown over more slavery, more inhumane actions, and more KKK rallies than the Confederate flag. Yet it is the Confederate flag that offends him. I suppose the many African Americans who have no problem with the Confederate flag or actually salute it, have no place in Mr. Gillum’s world. Perhaps better history courses and some sensitivity training are required if ignorance such as this passes for commentary in the Chronicle.

Brett Moffatt

— In, wrote:

Columnist Matt Gillum of the Duke Chronicle (the student newspaper for Duke University in Durham NC) writes below that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of Southern heritage. "Flags honor regimes," writes Gillum, "And the Confederate flag honors the racist Confederate States of America."

Gillum concludes his extremely hate-filled rant as follows: "A Confederate battle flag … is an invitation to violence — fighting words. It is divisive, and it is wrong. Gentlemen: Y’all can go to hell."

You can respond with a letter to the editor at