EDGEMONT, NY—We’re in my parents room, on the bed, watching the news. I see the Confederate flag on the screen and think, “Why aren’t people taking it down if they see that it’s hurting others?” What is the meaning of the confederate flag and how has it affected those who see it?
Lately, I’ve been seeing the confederate flag all over the news. It is hugely controversial because the symbol hurts people so much. Roberto Ferdman of the Washington Post said, “It’s a reflection of the great treason of the South in the 19th century, of its secession from the Union in defense of slavery, and its rejection of patriotism and nationalism.”
Joshua Rothman, an author and professor of history with a focus on race and slavery at the University of Alabama, adds “The origins of the confederate flag goes back to the Civil War confederacy. It was formed for the purpose of white supremacy and slavery.” During the Civil War, the Union and the Confederacy were fighting. The Union in the north and was against slavery, while the southern Confederacy was for slavery.
Since the Confederate flag symbolizes slavery, it often implies that the person who’s flying the flag has racist views. However, to the person who flies the flag, those views might not be at the forefront of their mind. “The confederate flag often means a generic symbol of regional pride to those who fly it. They see the flag coming down as a challenge to their position and power,” he adds. “But anyone flying it knows what it means to others and they don’t care, which means that you wouldn’t have to probe too deep to find racist views.” He adds that the flag is “used for the preservation of white supremacy.”
Rothman believes in freedom of speech, and someone’s right to fly the flag. Though, when people choose to fly it, they know they will face social consequences for doing so. “If people want to fly the confederate flag on their property, others might think certain things about them.” The main consequence: being disliked by others and the understanding that you are hurting them.
Artists around the country have been using their freedom of speech to express their hurt in response to confederate flag flying for decades. Author and artist, John Sims, created artwork of hanging the Confederate flag from gallows, symbolizing killing African Americans. The Sons of Confederate Veterans did not like that since it was their flag and they protested it.
Gerald Udwin, my grandfather, used to be a White House reporter for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Station. “Back in the 70s, I saw the confederate flag flying on government buildings all over the south. Now, the Black Lives Matter movement is bringing important attention to the pain the flag causes. And with that— and the corona virus—the country is getting more and more divided.” This divide will be seen and dramatically played out in the 2020 elections.