There have been numerous outbursts regarding the use of the Confederate flag in southern states across America recently.
Yet, a 2022 survey shows that 73% of Americans believe that the flag and other symbols of a dark past simply need re-contextualizing, rather than an outright ban.
For some Americans, the flag symbolizes a time of incredible strife and implies that racism is ongoing in modern times. Others see these icons as symbols of their cultural heritage.
Keep reading to find out more about what the fuss is all about.
What Is the Confederate Flag?
The original Confederate flag had seven white stars on a blue canton alongside three alternating stripes, one white and two red. It had a width-to-length ratio of two to three and was also known as the ‘stars and bars’.
The flag that attracts the most controversy is the Confederate battle flag. During the Civil War, soldiers fought under a different banner. That’s because the “stars and bars” resemble the Union’s “stars and stripes” flag.
The battle flag comprised a red background with a blue diagonal cross adorned with 13 white stars. It was a square flag, also called the “southern cross”.
This is the flag that most people associate with slavery and racism.
The History of the Confederate Flag
The original Confederate flag came about in 1861, with seven stars representing the original seven southern states. These were:
- South Carolina
Two years later, four more states, namely Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, joined the fray, resulting in the addition of four stars to the flag, plus two more for Kentucky and Missouri.
Up until the first battle of Bull Run, troops fought under this flag. After this engagement, the fighting men complained that they could not distinguish this flag from the Union flag at a distance.
General Beauregard duly designed a new flag consisting of the distinctive blue cross and stars on a field of red. Other versions of this battle flag incorporate it on a white field or a white field with a red bar at the edge.
So, in truth, the controversial Confederate flag symbolizes nothing more than a fervent desire among soldiers not to shoot at their allies. The flag was never intended as a symbol of racism or slavery.
Controversies Concerning the Confederate Flag
The biggest problem with the Confederate flag is that some white supremacist movements have adopted it as a symbol of their causes in modern times.
The States’ Rights Democratic Party, or Dixiecrats, started the ball rolling in 1948 when they used the flag to represent their pro-segregation splinter party.
Examples of other groups using this flag include:
- The League of the South (LOS)
- The Confederate States of America (CSA)
- Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC)
For many, the flag now symbolizes another ongoing battle between the races, even among those who would like to keep it as a reminder of brave struggles for freedom and independence.
Many Americans of color associate the Confederate flag with racism and anti-civil rights policies, even when this is unintentional.
Over the years, Confederate symbols have made the news on several occasions. These include:
In June 2015, Dylann Roof drove a car with Confederate license plates to a church in Charlottesville, where he shot and killed nine black parishioners. That September, South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley signed a bill removing the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol.
In 2016, there were over 700 Confederate monuments and statues on public property, leading to an ongoing conflict that sometimes turns violent.
Since then, state governments have responded to calls for the removal of these historic mementos in response to growing opposition to them.
In August 2017, the Texas government banned the use of Confederate flags on specialty license plates designed to honor veterans of the war, sparking a short-lived outcry.
In the same year, a public school in Oregon banned all representations of the Confederate flag after two students got into a fight over the flag.
It seems that for every person who opposes confederate symbols, there is another one who wants to celebrate them as part of their heritage.
Despite the ongoing arguments, you can still buy a Confederate flag from stores like Flag and Banner, Ultimate Flags Store, or even Amazon. It’s not illegal to display a Confederate flag on private property although some states have banned the use of the flag in public places.
Unfortunately, many Americans take a dim view of displaying these flags on public lands.
Non-Race-Related Facts about the Confederate Flag
For fifty-four years, the Confederate flag was a prominent feature of the South Carolina capital, where it represented less unsavory traditions of the state, such as southern hospitality.
Mississippi had a representation of the confederate flag on its state flag in defense of these traditions until 2021, when the state bowed to the pressure to remove it.
These other traditions far outweighed the preponderance of slavery all those years ago. After all, only the wealthiest southern families had slaves. The rest of the population found the practice abhorrent.
Slavery was only one aspect of the civil war. The conflict also revolved around many issues including political power, the state’s rights, taxes, and tariffs.
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For many, the flag symbolizes the brave efforts of Southerners trying to defend their autonomy, not safeguard slavery. It’s a little sad that they can’t celebrate their heritage due to the actions of extremist groups.
Make Up Your Mind
The bottom line is that the Confederate flag itself doesn’t incite violence or racial tension on its own. Only people can do that.
Peace and good relations between people of different demographics rely on tolerance and keeping an open mind. The freedom to pursue your own beliefs within the law is the foundation of America.
Why not expand your mind by reading some more of our thought-provoking articles so you can make informed decisions?