Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: A history lesson on flying a flag

This is a short piece on the history of flags — or as Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory would say — “Welcome to Fun with Flags.” The flags we will discuss today are the American and Confederate flags.
Flying these two flags together — especially on the same pole — means someone was not paying attention in high school American History. Let me explain. Displaying the Stars and Stripes means that one believes in the Union of the States. Flying the Confederate flag means that one supports the dissolution of the Union. It really is an either/or situation.
After the Southern states lost the Civil War, the Confederate flags were no longer relevant (there were actually several designs used by the South). In fact, the flags were considered a symbol of a lost cause. This phrase — lost cause — referred to a desire for a lifestyle that could no longer exist, not some grand concept of Southern legacy that somehow included everything good in the south — slavery excluded. A threat to slavery was what drove the South to secede and what the South was fighting to preserve.
The Confederate flags found their way back in Southern society in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the growth of the KKK as a growing fear of the Constitutional Amendments (specifically the 14th and 15th) granted citizenship and voting rights to black Americans.
In 1948, Strom Thurmond’s States’ Rights Party adopted the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia as a symbol of defiance against the Federal Government as the Civil Rights movement began to threaten the Jim Crow laws of the South. Historian Amy Dru Stanley (University of Chicago) wrote: “The Confederate flag has now been revealed to be what it always has been — a menacing symbol of white supremacy that legitimatizes racial violence. Ignoring this truth is the equivalent of someone saying they miss old Germany — minus the Holocaust.”
I hope this helps clarify the history of the Confederate flag. For more information regarding this topic I would suggest reading: “The Confederate Battle Flag” by John Coski, “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving, “Real American” by Julie Lythcott-Haims, and “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.
Jane Reilly
New Haven

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