Cure the Disorder That Caused the Confederate Flag To Be Raised in the First Place

Confederate Flagby Dennis Parker

We have witnessed the removal of the Confederate battle flag from some state houses and may see it removed from more, if not all, of the states in which it continues to fly. The total removal of the flag, whenever it occurs, will be grotesquely belated. And those who warn us that its removal, though vital, is only the first step that the nation must make if it is to realize the values that it claims to hold are completely right.

But we shouldn’t race too quickly past what the flag means and what its removal should signify. If the removal is driven by expediency, such as a desire to dial back the growing anger in the run-up to a presidential election, it would be a squandered opportunity to take a searching look at the current status of race in the nation.

In fact, the Confederate flag is one of many symptoms of a festering illness, one that has infected the United States since its founding as a country that recognized and relied heavily on the sale of human beings.

A recent New York Times story quoted a man who opposed the possible removal of the battle flag as the “beginning of communism” and a blow to the South, which he described as “the last bastion of liberty and independence.” He concluded by noting, “Our people are dying off,” before urging a white reporter to “keep reproducing.” The appeal to racial purity in his statement is both abhorrent and refreshing in its honesty. It is clear that his view of liberty and independence is not intended to be inclusive. This stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous invocation of heritage and recognition of bravery which is usually relied upon to justify support for the flag.

The flag, which was resurrected in the middle of the 20th century as a symbol of opposition to the growing civil rights movement, hearkens back to a war fought to perpetuate slavery and as a means of provoking fear and terror into people whose ancestors had been previously enslaved. It is a symbol of oppression and inequality. No attempts to mask it with discussions about heritage can obscure the reality that the Confederate flag is a symptom of the diseases of hatred and discrimination.

It is neither the only indicator of that sickness nor the only one that people seek to hide by using neutral language. Attacks on Black churches are dismissed by apologists as attacks on Christianity, in spite of the fact that the perpetrators of the acts espouse clear racial hatred and often profess to be Christian themselves. In another, though not mutually exclusive, act of deflection, apologists link the attackers’ actions to mental illness or anything other than the desire to destroy Black institutions, which have provided sanctuary, sustenance, and meaning to generations of Black people and have served historically as headquarters in the fight for civil rights.

But attacks against the Black community aren’t restricted to white supremacist killers, they are only the most sensational manifestation of American society’s enduring fear and mistrust of Black Americans.

The use of repressive and violent policing against communities of color is excused by concerns about crime. The mass incarceration of people of color that has exploded over the last several decades is the result in large part of a purportedly neutral war on drugs and tough on crime policies. Efforts to purge voting lists or prevent registration of new voters — which have disproportionately disenfranchised voters of color — are described euphemistically as “voter integrity.” All, and countless other examples, are symptoms of the underlying disease that subordinates people of color and blocks their full participation in American society.

Covering symptomatic sores would not qualify as a cure for leprosy. Ignoring repeated temperatures of 105 degrees could not be considered a path to good health. Likewise, ignoring the various symptoms of the underlying discrimination that continues to threaten the body politic is a guarantee that we will continue to suffer from the disease of discrimination.

Take down the confederate flag? Yes, of course. But cure the disorder that caused it to be raised in the first place.

Dennis Parker is the Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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9 Comments

  1. TrueBlueDevil

    Another opportunist trying to make hay out of this event with more logical fallacies and distortions.

    Mr. Parker wrote: “ is only the first step that the nation must make if it is to realize the values that it claims to hold are completely right.” We’ve been taking steps large and small for decades, has he been sleeping? Does he happen to know the names Obama, Carson, Powell, and Winfrey aren’t Danish but American.

    Is Mr. Parker aware that President Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign apparently had political buttons with Clinton and Gore’s names over the Confederate flag? Chew on that a while.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/06/22/hillary-clinton-not-talking-about-92-clinton-gore-confederate-campaign-button/

    Opposition to the civil rights movement came from the Democratic Party and LBJ. LBJ was also fond of dropping the notable n-word in the White House.

    I’ve read articles that state that the Confederate flag had a much closer association with the Democratic Party of the South.

    Is this author also concerned about Muslim terrorists across the Middle East and Africa slaughtering black Christians, and selling hem into current-day slavery?

    Lastly, this evil criminal also threatened to attack Charleston College, not a predominantly black college, and on a 3rd occasion threatened to kill other individuals. He seemed to be an equal opportunity hater.
     
    I have yet to see this article: why the rioting in Ferguson over the death of a young criminal who attempted to kill a police officer, yet nothing but apparent calm heads after nine God-fearing, honorable, hard-working citizens and community members were slaughtered in a house of God?

    1. David Greenwald

      “I have yet to see this article: why the rioting in Ferguson over the death of a young criminal who attempted to kill a police officer, yet nothing but apparent calm heads after nine God-fearing, honorable, hard-working citizens and community members were slaughtered in a house of God?”

      Because the guy who killed nine is charged with murder and the police officer is not. I know you don’t want to believe this but the fact that we already have laws in place to deal with crimes tempers the response.

    2. Tia Will

      had political buttons with Clinton and Gore’s names over the Confederate flag? Chew on that a while.”

      There is nothing whatsoever to “chew on ” here. Do you think that either Clinton or Gore would somehow be immune from the culture in which they were raised. If their are overtones of racism which are a part of the predominant culture, do you believe that their will be a special group called Democrats that are exempt ? I certainly don’t believe that the author of this article was making that point.

      Is this author also concerned about Muslim terrorists across the Middle East and Africa slaughtering black Christians, and selling hem into current-day slavery? “

      I believe that the author is specifically addressing what we can address within our own culture. You will note that he also did not address a myriad of other inequalities such as child labor laws, women’s rights, indigent health care….. He limited his comments to one specific issue, that of racism in America. Would you disagree with him that this particular form of injustice does not exist ?

       

       

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I would disagree with the obsession with the topic which seems to cloud out so many other concrete, unquestioned problems.

        This topic is obsessively discussed, analyzed, and rolled around in, oftentimes based on half truths.

  2. zaqzaq

    The confederate flag belongs on a war memorial for confederate soldiers.  Not on the roof of a statehouse.  Next we will be removing all of the statues of Confederate leaders from public places.  Changing the tombstones in cemeteries for Confederate soldiers who died in battle.  Changing street names for former Confederate leaders.  Of course we in California know what is best for Georgia, Virginia and Alabama.  Should we remove all statues and paintings for our leaders that owned slaves?  Should their likenesses be removed from our money?  Our political pundits want to spend more time on a flag than any underlying issues.

    1. Frankly

      Our political pundits want to spend more time on a flag than any underlying issues.

      Yes, because the underlying issues are the result of our political pundits.  Taking about the real problems and their root causes is an inconvenient embarrassment for these people, and it risks an end to their stock and trade.

    2. Tia Will

      zaqzaq

      The confederate flag belongs on a war memorial for confederate soldiers”

      I admit that I have been making an assumption. I have assumed until now that you live in Davis, California. If this is true, then your first sentence clearly indicates that you personally believe that you know what is best for Georgia, Virginia, and Alabama. You think that you have the most appropriate location for their confederate flags. So if you can dictate correct location, why cannot others express their opinions on all of these issues ?

  3. zaqzaq

    Tia,

    Based on your comment I have to wonder what is the weather like on your planet?  Yes, I expressed an opinion which you also routinely do.  Get over it.

  4. Tia Will

    zaqzaq

     Of course we in California know what is best for Georgia, Virginia and Alabama.”

    It was not your opinion that I had a problem with. It was your derisive comment about the views of other Californians and their knowledge of what is best for others. You really cannot see any irony here ?

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