July 1, 2000
10:08 PM   Subscribe

In an elaborate ceremony, the confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina Statehouse dome where it had flown for 38 years by Citadel cadets - one white, one black - amid cheering flag supporters and jeering anti-Confederate flag demonstrators. A smaller, square version was raised moments later on 30-foot flag pole by Civil War re-enactors in front of Confederate soldier's monument on Statehouse grounds, part of the compromise reached by the Legislature in May. Gov. Jim Hodges, the only top official taking part in Saturday's flag relocation ceremony, said most South Carolinians support the compromise that plants the flag at the most visible spot on the Capitol grounds.
posted by palegirl (22 comments total)
Personally I've always wanted to burn an American flag, as part of a performance art exhibition. Problem is in today's climate, I'd risk getting shot on the way home. Especially here in Dallas. Back in '84 they tried to put Gregory Johnson in jail for it. I know today, there would possibly be people who would just take the law into their own hands.

The confederate flag is a piece of history that can't be erased. I happen to agree that it shouldn't be flown over any statehouse in the south, because the confederacy didn't win the Civil War. It is like taking any nation's flag that has challenged the United States of America (Russia. Nazi Germany. China. Cuba.) and flying it over the White House.

However it is fair to have the confederate flag wave over a monument that recognizes that part of our past and our heritage. It is a reminder that in some ways we are still a country divided. Eternal vigilance is the price we pay. I wish this soil will never again see brother fighting against brother. Unfortunately it happens every day. The war is still being waged. It's just that we no longer call it war. We call it something else.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:38 PM on July 1, 2000

This makes me think of my high school history classes. The US history I took during my two years on the Kansas side of Kansas City painted a very clear picture of the civil war. As did the classes I took for a couple years on the Missouri side. However, if the names and dates weren't the same, you'd think they were talking about two entirely different wars.

And there are still people there who will tell you in all earnesty that the civil war isn't over yet. Makes me shudder to think of it.
posted by katchomko at 10:38 PM on July 1, 2000

Do all of the economic boycotts, Serena Williams, NCAA, NBA, and whatever other organizations, who said they would fight until it was removed, finally end there holdouts and protests and return?
posted by brent at 7:31 AM on July 2, 2000

Surely most of them will. Even if they don't, the compromise has taken the wind out of their sails.

Even though some may object to the new location's prominence, I think it's a good compromise. The flag doesn't belong on the statehouse, because that building should represent ALL the people. (As it is the flag is only supported by a majority of whites, not even all of them.) But keeping it as an historical relic and putting it in context is appropriate IMHO. I think erasing it entirely (a la Germany and Nazi artifacts) would be antithetical to the open society we're trying to build here.
posted by dhartung at 8:33 AM on July 2, 2000

I guess I should also say that I object to the media's relentless characterization of the new location as "more prominent".

It may be more visible, but there is an enormous difference between a visible location and a location on top of a public building intended to represent all the people. That symbology being played down only fans the flames. If you're in the south you will see a Confederate flag on front lawns, on jackets, on cars (a la General Lee), and so forth. I don't think having it one more location matters that much, when compared with what it represents when it flies over the statehouse.
posted by dhartung at 8:37 AM on July 2, 2000

You don't even have to be in the South to see confederate flags flown from homes. We have them around here and Ohio is above the Mason-Dixon line (geographically, at least).
posted by elgoose at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2000

I would not say the confederate flag is "supported by a majority of whites, not even all of them." It is supported by an ignorant minority of light-skinned males. Most of which really only support it if you get them very drunk.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:16 AM on July 3, 2000

When my wife and I went to visit my white brother in rural Kentucky, we found him living in a small house in what seemed like a nice neighborhood. The day after we arrived, we were confronted with a confederate flag hanging from their next-door neighbor's house. There was no mistaking the meaning of that flag -- it sent a message of racial hatred loud and clear. Though the flag may not carry that meaning for *all* whites, it certainly carries that meaning for *all* blacks, and pretty much all people of color. To support the flag being flown is to support the white supremacy that is inherent in the fact that it ever flew after the civil war ended, and in the fact that we are even debating this today.
posted by sudama at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2000

And it is precisely because of that attitude that I want to burn an American flag in a performance piece someday. It's a FLAG!!! It means NOTHING other than what each individual puts upon it.

I believe there is a way to burn the American flag with respect to those qualities which we place upon it. And likewise I believe there is a way to respect the history of this country by sending the confederate flag up the pole.

I wouldn't do them AT THE SAME TIME that would be overkill. However, the confederate flag does not mean white supremacy to me. Guys in pillow cases mean white supremacy ignorance to me. Does that mean I can't put my pillows in pillow cases anymore? Cuz of what those buttwipes did with them? Of course not.

Y'wanna tick off white supremacists? The black community could start embracing the confederate flag. Wave it over all NAACP meetings. Embroider it into their underwear. Black athletes could get confederate colored towels and wipe their sweat off with them. They should claim it as their own. Change what it means for millions of people for the 21st century.

I mean heck, all the confederate flag is is a bastardization of the old Union Jack from the UK. It used to mean something radically different than what it allegedly means now. That can happen again.

They're fighting it when they should just morph it into something they like. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2000

I have no interest in ticking off white supremacists -- that's not a fight worth fighting. Similarly, I'm not trying to trample on anyone's rights for the sake of anyone else's feelings -- that's simply not right. I'm just trying to explain why it's a big deal -- why to some people it's not an issue that can be discussed in terms of abstract concepts, principles, and the like. The sight of that flag has a devastating psychological effect on the black community and that effect manifests in the material world pretty directly. That's why the NAACP refused to back down, and shouldn't have. They are trying to express to the (white) power structure what message that flag carries to them, and the response has amounted to "... so?" "not my problem" and "get over it".The meaning of the flag is more than what each individual puts upon it -- true it has different meanings, but those meanings are agreed upon collectively by groups of people. If you really think the confederate flag has no meaning but to individuals, I'll find you a nice small town in South Carolina where you can burn that flag on Main Street on a Sunday morning and I reckon you'll get some firsthand evidence of what exactly it means to you.Blacks have been terrorized in the name of that flag (and by that flag, or by people flying that flag) for decades. The idea of black folk claiming the flag as their own is interesting academically, but I'm afraid it just wouldn't translate into reality.
posted by sudama at 5:05 PM on July 3, 2000

I recall reading an article a few years back about a couple of young black guys, marketing a line of clothing with huge rebel flags done up in green yellow and black. The basic idea being what was previously mentioned. It was like... 5years ago, I never heard about it again.
Here in Chicago, there was a civil war prison located in what is now a solidly black area of town. The elderly black man who owns the property found out many southern soldiers died there (I think from disease), and has taken to flying the rebel flag in tribute to the dead. It pops up in the news everyonce in awhile, it seems to have made him unpopular with his neigbhors. He gets threats and vandalism on a regular basis.
This is just cause I hate generalizations. I do not think it proves anything that was said here wrong, it just kills that pesky use of the word ALL.
posted by thirteen at 12:07 AM on July 4, 2000

Sudama sez:
> Though the flag may not carry that meaning for *all* whites, it certainly carries that meaning for *all* blacks, and pretty much all people of color.

Um, yeah, right.

Argument by assertion. I love it. Let's all remember to label our personal opinions, 'eh?
posted by baylink at 11:45 AM on July 4, 2000

I should say I got the link off of Baylinks page. I did not attribute it to him, because I thought if he had not entered it into the discussion by now, he did not want to be associated with the topic. My apologies.
posted by thirteen at 11:52 AM on July 4, 2000

What does it contribute to the discussion to expose my faulty logic and generalizations? I'm trying to express something that has truth at its core. If you'd rather focus on the flaws in my arguments than on the point I'm fumbling towards, don't waste your time. That article is fascinating, and 100% irrelevant with respect to the issue at hand.
posted by sudama at 10:01 PM on July 4, 2000

I think the whole point, sudama, is that your truth is not everyone's truth.

Here's my truth: The Confederate flag means The South. And the South is a place I love. So I have a soft spot for the flag. But not even a shred of tolerance for racism---which is something that goes far beyond the South, and I can't *even* believe people have to be reminded of that. Whyee do people equate "Southern" with "racist"? It's offensive, it's a prejudice all its own. That flag was never the "let's subjugate all black people" flag. It stood for a hell of a lot more.

The Civil War is *history*. In both senses of the term. If the Civil War "never ended" it's because both sides are still fighting. The North isn't content that the South lost, isn't even content that slavery's dead, they should deny the South its history as well? Forget it. At this point you're not battling racism, you're battling regionalism, and that's a lost cause. All the families both North and South who lost sons to the war---should they forget? For that matter, the courts who to this day have to remind Congress from time to time of the limits of their power over individual states---should they forget?

Here's something marginally closer to being an issue that people should actually be upset about: the Georgia state flag incorporates the old Confederate flag. But it didn't always. The incorporation was made in 1956, on the heels of Brown vs the Board of Education, by politicians with ties to racist groups. As such, the 1956 flag that still flies today is offensive, and should be changed. But that doesn't make the Confederate flag a "racist symbol" per se. It means a bunch of rednecks terrified to death of court-ordered desegregation took that flag and borrowed it to represent their hate, just in time for the real war-over-racism that was just getting under way.

The Georgia flag was explitically created as a symbol of racism. The Confederate flag was not and as an artifact of Southern history and heritage is not inherently offensive. It's a fine distinction, and one that's surely lost on people who just cannot conceive of a regionalist Southern culture which eschews racism, but it's one I stand by just the same.

(...the *very funnest thing* about conversations like this is that no matter how carefully put, you cannot take a position like mine without being branded a closet racist. and the very funnest thing about accusations of racism is that they don't have to be anything like proven in order to do their damage... i simply cannot wait.)
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:07 AM on July 5, 2000

I added a caveat saying that I did not think the link undid your argument. It is my opinion that that your points were entirely correct, and most clearly represented what the flag means to most everybody on both sides of the issue. The generalization begs for the exception to be brought forth and buries the truth at the core. Having been exposed to the contridictions, your argument can be amended to be stronger in future discussion of the subject. I thought of my examples as interesting sidebars, and I am sorry you do not agree.
posted by thirteen at 12:13 AM on July 5, 2000

Sorry, thirteen... I should have made it clear that I was responding to baylink with that last post. The point that I can and should do a better job constructing my arguments is taken. I'm just frustrated that no one in this thread will own up to the fact that even the most reasonable defense of the confederate flag is a slap in the face to *all* blacks and people of color -- whether those people of color know it, or care, or not.
posted by sudama at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2000

All the families both North and South who lost sons to the war---should they forget?

omg, that is the funniest thing i've read all day. every person who lost sons in the war is dead, Sapphireblue
posted by palegirl at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2000

.... I said *families*, not persons. Don't know where you're from, but in my part of the world, the concept of family includes generations long gone. Walking though a cemetery full of dead soldiers, with long long rows of uniform headstones where the same family names are repeated over and over and over again, where the dates of birth and dates of death are far too close together, is heartbreaking...

But I'm glad, palegirl, I was able to provide you with a good laugh.

Shall we next discuss ripping down the Vietnam Memorial in DC just as soon as the last mother or father who lost a child there has died?
posted by Sapphireblue at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2000


Uhm.. how about we all just bury the hatchet and have donuts and coffee? I mean, I was just enjoying an exciting debate about this topic, but some of you are starting to sound like you're like, taking it serioiusly and stuff.

It's a FLAG. It's a piece of material. What WE place upon the flag is what makes it evil or good, and we should really strongly consider that. All of us.

Damn, I really wish I could do that performance art thing and burn a couple flags. I think I'd put the American flag WITH the confederate flag and burn them both at the same time, right before reading some choice snippets from the Constitution and the Declaration.

AND I'd be burning the flags in the names of all those who have died so that I have the RIGHT to burn a flag in public. So that I have a RIGHT to my opinion. So I have the RIGHT to speak out regardless of my personal beliefs or differences from others.

It's JUST a FLAG. And burning the flag can actually REINFORCE what it represents. You could burn a million flags and it still wouldn't change the fact that we have inalienable rights. Irregardless of skin color. And those rights are to be protected. Don't protect the stupid flags. Protect what they represent. If you don't like what a flag represents, CHANGE IT.

THERE... Now how about a donut? =)
posted by ZachsMind at 9:34 PM on July 6, 2000

I don't know why people always wanna burn things, A cross, a book, or a flag. I don't mind that you wanna do it, I would not try and stop you, but I do not think any good comes from it. The way I see it, it is just pissing someone off and escalating the situation. Those people might have died so that you could have that right, but I doubt that was what they were thinking of as they died, and I do not imagine they would understand the connection if they came back to life and saw you doing it.
And when it comes down to it, is there anything MORE offensive than performance art? Mimes look down on perfomance artists. I feel dirty just typing the words. Ick.
Now I gotta jump in the car and get some Krispy Kremes.
posted by thirteen at 10:00 PM on July 6, 2000

An interesting article from the Denver Rocky Mountain News puts the discussion we've been having in some real-life context with the story of a self-described 60's liberal who flies a confederate flag from her front porch -- it was recently set on fire.
posted by sudama at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2000

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