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June 24, 2015

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When Anti-Racists Adopted the Confederate Battle Flag: Beyond heritage and hate

Right after commenting in response to Cleek, I saw LJ's post. I'm re-posting my comment below but first, I have my own Dixie story.

In the late summer of 1968, my dad, who had retired from the navy in 1964, was recalled to service following the Tet Offensive and the Pueblo Incident. The navy needed retreads like my dad to fill shore billets and free up other officers with more relevant skill sets (my dad was a sea plane pilot and therefore obsolete by then).

So, I wound as a freshman at Millington Central High School, in Millington TN, right outside of Memphis, where Martin Luther King had just been assassinated. MCHS was partially integrated, but there was an all-black high school not far away that was a Plessey Legacy. The school fight song was Dixie. As an aside, the cheerleaders' dance routine to Dixie was worth the price of admission to any 14 year old boy.

My sophomore year, the smattering of black students staged a peaceful protest, demanding that the school drop Dixie. The student body consisted of three main groups: about 10% black, 15% redneck and the rest Navy brats.

There was a black/redneck standoff, some words, mostly from the redneck contingent, and Dixie got dropped. The Navy brats were silent and mostly indifferent. As I got older, I came to understand at least somewhat the courage it took for those kids to stand up. I wish I'd the the insight and fortitude to have stood up too.

However, the dance routine was awesome and *that* is what I think of when I hear Dixie today.

My thoughts from Russell's post that are germane to LJ's:

i'd say that's what the rebel flag mostly represents to people all across the US - esp to young people. it's a big FU to the government, or to society. they aren't thinking about it's real meaning. and the actual reason for the Civil War is rarely discussed. we call it the "rebel flag", and that says nothing of what that rebellion was seeking to achieve.

I agree that the Confederate battle flag needs to go as an official symbol of state of local government. This is an opinion, not a declaration that the feds ought to compel the act. It is up to South Carolina or Georgia or whoever to decide whether to quit giving blacks the finger or not. Not the feds and not me.

This still leaves grey areas. The University of Mississippi, i.e. Ole Miss, is the Rebels. They use the CSA battle flag. It's a tradition, not a political statement. I'd cut them some slack. A grandfather clause, if you will.

Another grey area is Civil War re-enactors. Seems like a waste of a weekend to me, but for some reason these folks like to dress up and re-do Civil War battles. I have a minor historical interest in the Civil War, and I enjoy reading about the battles, the leaders, and grunts, on both sides. The southern leadership was all about slavery. Not so much the grunts. Back then, loyalty to one's state was huge. We can't relate to it today. The sacrifice and courage--in a forlorn and horrific cause--of the confederate troops was impressive. Their descendants, in part inspired by that legacy, did this country great service in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and even today. A lot of decent people with a sense of history respect the stand, if not the cause, the southern troops made. Do they tend to gloss over some of the bad stuff? Some do a lot, others to some extent. Others probably fully understand what the South stood for as its national goal but still marvel at the effort those with virtually no skin in the game contributed. I'm mind reading here, if that isn't completely obvious.

The point here is that we can't rewrite history or declare certain hobbies and interests off limits because, inter alia, the southern leadership wanted to remain a slave owning country. Because, speaking of grey areas, there is more than a little historical evidence that Lincoln would have compromised on slavery to maintain the union. Even the halos have a bit of tarnish on them sometimes.

The consensus re pulling down the battle flag from state buildings makes the point adequately. We should take "yes" for an answer and move on.

http://kingfish1935.blogspot.com/2015/06/da-speakah-speaks-on-da-flag.html

Check out the comments at that link. Mississippi STILL isn't ready to exit the 19th century. Not quite.

There are some trying, but if the state is going to be brought up to date it'll be done with a much to large portion of the state kicking and screaming.

As to McK above, Ole Miss's administration is trying REALLY HARD to get rid of a lot of that Confederate baggage. I'll give them credit for that (as a MS State grad.) They did away with the Rebel flags in the 80's for the official school representatives like the cheerleaders and such. Of course, they had to ban the sticks or flag poles from games because the crowd kept bringing the flag otherwise. They recently changed their mascot to a black bear to try and get rid of 'Colonel Reb', and that is STILL pissing off a lot of the UM Alumni. I'm not sure the current students care though.

Mississippi STILL isn't ready to exit the 19th century. Not quite.

Certainly, this is one way of putting it. Another way to think of it is that Mississippi is not willing to have business tell them what to do. This is not to disagree with how problematic the flag is or how problematic the state is (when Obama won the first presidential election, my hometown newspaper put it below the fold. In a box), but it is interesting that what seems to be driving this rejection of the flag is business and a desire to avoid offense. One assumes that the Native American population is just not big enough to drive those sorts of concerns about the Redskins (or as Slate refers to them, the Washington _________).

And this from next door in Alabama

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/06/24/alabama-governor-confederate-flag-robert-bentley/29210283/

I would disagree with this, "Another way to think of it is that Mississippi is not willing to have business tell them what to do."

Living here my whole life, I've noticed that the ONE thing you can count on even MORE than the built in racism, is a deference to money. If you are the 'big man (or business they are people too ya know) on the hill' then EVERYONE is all 'yes suh/no suh' to them ALL THE TIME! I'd say the very reason the flag is even being CONSIDERED at this time isn't because of the inherent problems with the flag but BECAUSE rich people and businesses are asking for it to be changed.

That is, of course, just an opinion. I've got nothing but my own observations to back that up.

Well, that's true, but it is 'old money' that is deferred to in my experience (which was 20-30 years ago). Mississippians remind one a lot like what I've heard mules are like, in that if you want them to go one way, they will always go the other. Perhaps even get a perverse pleasure out of it.

I do worry about what donald johnson pointed out in the other thread, which I will quote here

Also, while I favor taking down the flag, I'm a little uneasy about how once again Americans are focusing on a symbol and expressing our sense of self-righteousness this way. After all the flags are down we will still have the poverty and the income and wealth gaps to deal with (or ignore).

You've also got the Tea Party and Sarah Palin beloved Chris McDaniel looking to make hay from this, as was noted in your link. And UM is taking the opposite side,

http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/weblogs/jackblog/2015/jun/23/ole-miss-change-the-mississippi-state-flag/

And, as always, an invitation to write a guest post about what it is like in the state concerning this or other issues is open.

McK, and others, re the Civil War:

I cannot recommend What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War by Chandra Manning too strongly. This is a book that shapes my current understanding of what the soldiers were fighting for.

Manning's book is different and crucial because she looked at *enlisted* soldiers only, not at officers. For the Confederates, this means she was looking at non-slaveholders.

Non-slaveholding Confederate soldiers regarded black slavery as vital to the protection of their families, interests, and very identities as men, and they relied on it to prevent race war.

Based on their letters and other documents, these soldiers didn't think of themselves as fighting "patriotically" so much as fighting to protect their own families and interests. They tended to be individualists, and they felt slavery was crucial for their *individual* (and direct family) respect and survival.

LJ, Oh, yeah. The 'conversation' you get in the comments is fun to watch, and many of the better educated are firmly for 'progress', but there just doesn't seem to be enough of them to 'win'. I think it's because most of the well educated get out of the state just as fast as they can. Still you have to be careful, because a lot of the political leadership is also well educated but hide their cronyism and nepotism behind a "Aw shucks, I'm just a country boy from XXX" facade. I do have to admit, SOME of them make me question the value of the higher education system.

The Chris McDaniel topics at 'Jackson Free Press' and "Jackson Jambalaya" are always a hoot to read.

Probably less so if you know you are going to be directly affected by the various topics.

Personally, I'd just like the obvious symbols of racism and slavery removed from official government sanction.

To me, the fact that the conversation is even happening - that places like MS and GA and SC are even discussing removing the Confederate flags - is a win. Whatever the outcome.

I can't think of a better way to send a big FU to young Dylann Roof. He wanted to start a race war, instead people are trying to figure out how to lay that legacy to rest.

I also can't think of a better way to honor the nine folks killed in Charleston.

I'm calling it a good day. As McK says, take "yes" for an answer and move on.

Also, while I favor taking down the flag, I'm a little uneasy about how once again Americans are focusing on a symbol and expressing our sense of self-righteousness this way.

I think it plays a role that flags are fetishized in the US in general, so it's easy to turn it into a holy cow issue.

The last flag of the Confederacy was officially 'the blood-stained banner'. As a German that instantly reminds me of the Blutfahne of the Nazi party (the flag carried during the Hitler Putsch of 1923 that got bloodstains on it when the Munich police put an end to it), which was later (after 1933) used to ritually consecrate all official flags in the 3rd Reich.

(I have stated on numerous occasions why I dislike the Pledge of Allegiance: a) because I am averse to this kind of enforced rituals in general and b) that it puts the flag in first place turning the worthwhile parts almost into an afterthought. Why not 'the republic this flags stands for'?)

NC is also talking about stopping issuing license plates with the flag (after Charleston, and now that the SC says they can).

“The great argument we made from a business perspective was that if you were trying to introduce a product, would you make something that made 38% of your market uncomfortable?”

Mr Wilson was partially making a point about why business was trying persuade Mississippi to ditch the Confederate sympolism. But it seems to me that he was at least as much expressing incomprehension, as a businessman, for a policy which deliberately alienated a third of the population. That is, he wasn't just saying, "You should stop this." He was also saying "Why in the world would you do such a thing???"

I'm not following this story (about the flag) all that closely but the media (both news and social) is. So much so that it's kind of hard to miss. Anyway, I was actually VERY surprised to see this:

http://msbusiness.com/2015/06/breaking-news-roger-wicker-remove-confederate-sign-from-mississippi-flag/

"Knock-me-over-with-a-feather" surprised (pleasantly) actually.

I will say that I'm seeing a lot of push for this kind of thing from a religious point of view especially by the Methodist church.

Doc, will do. Thanks. ATM

it's easy to turn it into a holy cow issue.

nitpick:

that's probably "sacred cow" ? "holy cow" means "wow!"

;)

cleek, that seems to be correct (although there is no logic behind). On the other hand this is an issue for many cries of "Holy cow!"! ;-)

Interestingly, the Latin word 'sacer' means both holy and accursed. 'Auri sacra fames' is not the holy hunger for gold (although the plutocrats would likely claim it, if they understood Latin). But those ancient Romans also used the same word for poison, medicine and magic ;-)

although there is no logic behind

no, not any grammatical logic.

"holy cow" is probably a minced oath* for "holy shit".

"sacred cow"... maybe someone chose 'sacred' because 'holy cow' was already in use?

guessing.

* a phrase i just learned today!

"sacred cow"... maybe someone chose 'sacred' because 'holy cow' was already in use?

I think both refer to the Hindu view of cattle, which play an important role in that religion (which, other than reincarnation in some form or fashion) fully exhausts what I know, or think I know, of that religion.

"holy cow" ~ "Holy Christ"

LJ, I was at the 1981 FSU-USM game in Tallahassee when Collier destroyed the Seminoles. If your band traveled to away games then I would've heard some of your playing. Collier was an amazing player, but some of the result was due to FSU's brutal schedule that year, including 5 straight road games: at Nebraska, off week, at Ohio State (qb Art Schlichter, at Notre Dame, at Pitt (qb Dan Marino), at LSU. They won 3 of those 5, but were physically beat to hell.

Hartmut, my last year of high school they instituted the recitation of the Pledge during home room to start the day (first year of the Reagan administration); I refused to stand and recite it in protest. I'm pretty sure if I had done that in more recent times I would have been subject to discipline of some kind, but the schools were more laid back then and not as mindlessly authoritarian as they have become.

The protest was partly a political reaction against the coerced display of "patriotism", but also based on the fact that the Pledge was a formalized version of the types of pledges that ex-Confederates were required to make as part getting their rights of citizenship restored. As I had never supported treason or taken up arms against the government, there was no reason for me to have make a public pledge of this kind.

LJ, I was at the 1981 FSU-USM game in Tallahassee when Collier destroyed the Seminoles. If your band traveled to away games then I would've heard some of your playing. Collier was an amazing player, but some of the result was due to FSU's brutal schedule that year, including 5 straight road games: at Nebraska, off week, at Ohio State (qb Art Schlichter, at Notre Dame, at Pitt (qb Dan Marino), at LSU. They won 3 of those 5, but were physically beat to hell.

Hartmut, my last year of high school they instituted the recitation of the Pledge during home room to start the day (first year of the Reagan administration); I refused to stand and recite it in protest. I'm pretty sure if I had done that in more recent times I would have been subject to discipline of some kind, but the schools were more laid back then and not as mindlessly authoritarian as they have become.

The protest was partly a political reaction against the coerced display of "patriotism", but also based on the fact that the Pledge was a formalized version of the types of pledges that ex-Confederates were required to make as part getting their rights of citizenship restored. As I had never supported treason or taken up arms against the government, there was no reason for me to have make a public pledge of this kind.

sacred cow sounds more convincing in re: that origin based on the actual use. holy cow sounds more like a folk etymology, with all the accuracy those typically display. It sounds like it's an old folk etymology, but a folk etymology none-the-less.


Now if we can just get "under God" removed from the Pledge ...

nah, I'll never see that in my lifetime.

Confederate soldiers were not racists, but Nikki Haley is cooperating with a "Stalinist" purge:

http://www.businessinsider.com/ted-cruz-campaign-aide-compared-confederate-flag-removal-to-stalinist-purge-2015-6

The pigf*ckers are coming out of the woodwork.

Decent conservatives and Republicans have been completely displaced in the Republican party by pigf*ckers.

By this time next week, most of the Republican Presidential candidates will be whipped into line in these issues by their base and will be using the same waffling language Russell felt compelled to apologize for bringing up.

Does that make Stalin underrated?

Now if we can just get "under God" removed from the Pledge

and from our money.

The Persistence of Racism

We are now entering a portion of the universe where typepad catches random comments and puts them into the spam folder. I'll try and keep my eye open, but if you find it not going, send a mail to the kitty.

In Finland, we had a civil war in 1918. It was pretty bloody. About 20,000 people out if the population of three million died, and there was massive bad blood afterwards. To give an example, the socialist consumer cooperative store of Helsinki rejoined the national association of consumer cooperatives (which is "white", i.e. bourgeois) only in late 2000's.

The traditions of both sides are a serious thing. The red side was fighting for a socialist Finland. It is quite likely that such country would have become a part or a satellite of the Soviet Russia that was forming simultaneously. However, there is no question that many leaders and ordinary members of the red side were patriotic citizens who were fighting for a democratic socialist country.

The white side was fighting for a democratic, free Finland. However, some of the prominent leaders were rather darkly nationalist and undemocratic. Fortunately, they did not have the final say, as the entente powers required Finland to become a genuinely democratic, parliamentary country.

Both sides committed atrocities. White side committed worse crimes, as they won and had the opportunity.

Nowadays, the war is mostly commemorated quite low-key. During the 90-year anniversary, there was no governmental remembrance at all. Most municipal celebrations were non-partisan, and when battles were remembered, the focus was on the bravery and provess displayed by both sides. (When applicable. Numerous battles ended in the untrained and ill-disciplined red troops losing heart and retreating to avoid an imaginary surrounding movement. The white side was better disciplined but not well-trained enough to actually try such feats.)

Nowadays, it is customary for the socialist parties to lay wreaths on the monuments for red fallen on 1st of May, immediately followed by a wreath-laying on the local heroes' grave of the WWII fallen. The conservative organizations lay wreaths on the local monuments of the civil war white side on 27th January, the start date of the war.

The organizations that are non-partisan lay a wreath on the WWII heroes' graves on the independence day, and quite often, on both civil war monuments.

the same waffling language Russell felt compelled to apologize for bringing up

Hey man, c'mon! Everybody likes waffles!.

"my last year of high school they instituted the recitation of the Pledge during home room to start the day (first year of the Reagan administration); I refused to stand and recite it in protest."

My high school did the same thing at the same time. None of the students in my homeroom participated, but I don't think it was a protest so much as it was "Wow this is incredibly lame."

My schools, on the other hand, did the recitation of the Pledge from 1st grade on. We had a little bobble when, in the mid 1950s, the phrase "under God" got added (in response to "Godless communist"). So we had to relearn the Pledge -- which, by that time, we could rattle off without thinking about it.

Maybe California was just different. But it might be interesting to look at which places had recitation a routine part of the start of the school day, and which did not. Not to mention when it rolled out where.

I can remember reciting the pledge in the morning, outside before going into class, at the elementary school I first attended for a couple of months after moving from New Jersey to Phoenix in 2nd grade with my mother. We didn't do it at the school I attended for the rest of the time I spent the school year in Phoenix, until finishing 8th grade.

When I started high school back in New Jersey after deciding to stay with my father, I was dumbfounded on the first day when we had to stand for the pledge in homeroom. It was something I associated with being a little kid and thought it was ludicrous for someone my age to made to do that every morning.

Then there was the big "moment of silence" controversy. We actually had the local news come to my high school my sophomore or junior year. The reporter interviewed me, and I said, "I just stand there." She asked, "Do you pray?" I said, "no." She asked, "ever?" I said, "no."

My interview did not make the news that night.

Somehow, the fundies don't like it when you make a Pledge to the Undergod.

The other thing fundies don't like is a comma between "nation" and "under." When I moved from Atlanta, GA to Anniston, AL in the 6th grade I was used to a comma being there. When the teacher heard me pause, she made a big deal out of it and showed me a written copy of the text in some sort of pamphlet that was all about the evils of that comma.

Fundies get excited about the strangest things.

In elementary school, every day started with the (anti-Communist version of) the Pledge. I'm sure that's why the Rooskies never invaded Mason City Iowa.

Around age 15 I simply stopped saying "under God" on those rare occasions when adults are called on to Pledge. I was 30 before I found out that it was a McCarthyism insertion.

I've always loved this early Matt Groening :
https://christinerocks.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/lifeinhell.jpg

it should surprise nobody that Limbaugh and RedState are very concerned that this assault on the CSA flag is part of a larger assault on America itself.

...some sort of pamphlet that was all about the evils of that comma.

Fundies get excited about the strangest things.

I dunno - the incorrect use of the apostrophe drives me nuts.

:-b

For a UK perspective... my only early encounter with the confederate flag was watching the culturally exotic 'Dukes of Hazzard' on Sunday afternoon TV as a kid.
The symbol had no meaning to me back then, but the programme itself engendered an early and unjustifiable prejudice that everyone from the US south was irredeemably stupid.

Today, the persistence of the flag seems almost as strange as (say) Bavaria adopting the swastika on its coat of arms.

Limbaugh is losing market share daily. IMO his days as somebody that anybody gives a crap about are numbered.

Perhaps the voice of the turtle-dove will soon be heard in our land.

Nigel: "...the [Dukes of Hazzard] itself engendered an early and unjustifiable prejudice that everyone from the US south was irredeemably stupid."

So, much like Benny Hill?

the incorrect use of the apostrophe drives me nuts.

Me too.

Don't these people know that it's the crux of the biscuit ?

A lot of Benny Hill's jokes and skits were the same or similar to the jokes I heard as a kid growing up in Texas.

So, much like Benny Hill?

I claim no moral or intellectual superiority on behalf of 1970/80s British television.
When I called the Dukes of Hazzard culturally exotic I wasn't being entirely ironic.

Oh, a misplaced comma can make a huge difference as already noted by Abraham a Sancta Clara. Take for example "Resurrexit, non est hic" vs. "Resurrexit non, est hic"
(what the angel says in the empty tomb of Christ. The comma shift turns it into "he has not risen, he is here").
Please take not that the comma* had not yet been invented when that verse first appeared in Latin.

*the comma in grammar, that is. The one in music was long known already.

When I called the Dukes of Hazzard culturally exotic I wasn't being entirely ironic.

I remember an orange car and cut off shorts.

I remember an orange car

Indeed; one which apparently they had not worked out how to fit with doors.

On those extremely rare occasions that I chanced across the Dukes of Hazard, I could never decide whether the Dukes or the police chasing them were more stupid.

The Dukes stupidly lucky because the police were luckily stupid.

CharlesWT: best series synopsis, FTW!

We all be ISIS now:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/06/26/1396536/-Tennessee-Republican-Americans-who-want-to-rename-Confederate-parks-are-like-ISIS

God don't like ugly:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/confederate-flag-parade-dalton

Not safe for work with the volume up.

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