The South Carolina and American flags fly at half-staff as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument in Columbia, S.C. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Instead of simply enjoying myself at the National NOW Conference, I spent time today in an online debate about removing the Confederate flag that flies over so many Southern capital buildings.
Just having it hang there is bad enough but I find it really galling when the flag of the United States was lowered to half mast following the hate crime massacre at the historic Charleston, South Carolina church, the flag of the Confederacy continued to wave from the top of the flag pole on the Columbia, South Carolina Capital grounds.
After 150 years, that flag needs to come down from our statehouses and go to rest in a museum.
Don’t tell me that the flag is a symbol of pride. Who can be proud about protecting slavery? Or for starting a war in which 750,000 soldiers died (about two percent of the population)?
I will state it clearly – the South went to war over slavery.
Don’t believe me?
Please read words of the leaders of the successions movement and the documents from the time:
In its declaration of secession, Mississippi stated, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world … a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”
In its justification of secession, Texas sums up its view of a union built upon slavery: “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.”
To read other states Declarations of Succession, go to Declarations of Causes of Seceding States. South Carolina’s is very interesting, as they actually argue against states rights on the issue of returning escaped slaves.
Slavery was embedded in the Confederate Constitution:
- Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 4: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”
- Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 3: “The Confederate States may acquire new territory . . . In all such territory, the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government.”
Let us not mince words. The South sought to destroy the United States, not only through war but in the very act of secession. The Confederates started and lost a war that very nearly destroyed the country. The cause was unjust, the economic justification despicable. Their very actions were treasonous.
That is the real heritage of the Confederate flag.
This is hard for me. I’m speaking as someone who had members of her family who fought for the Southern side (and one who spent time in an Ohio prisoner of war camp) but I tell you there is no moral high ground here.
Even the Supreme Court has ruled that refusing to print a Confederate flag on a state license plate is not a violation of the First Amendment regarding free speech. When Texas turned down a plate featuring the Confederate flag, the board of the Motor Vehicles Department said, “A significant portion of the public,” the board said, “associates the Confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups.”
If the Texas bureaucracy can see that, I would hope the rest of us can, too.
It has been a 150 years. It is time for the Confederate flags on public buildings to come down!
Here are a couple of petitions. Maybe they work but putting your name on them is just the first step.
The next step is working with your state’s legislature to bring them all down.
The quote in the title is from Virginia Senator Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter. As printed in the Congressional Globe, Senate, 31st Congress, 1st Session on March 25, 1850, he said, “What if I can show that if the object of emancipating our slaves in the South were accomplished, the infallible consequence would be the absolute ruin of the country?”