I would like to respond to Clyde Wilson’s excellent editorial (Cultural Revolutions, May 1996) on the Confederate flag. Mr. Wilson is correct in what he says, as far as it goes, but there is, or should be, more here than meets the eye.
First, why do we really care what may or not be “offensive” to blacks? In our time, blacks are “offended” on racial grounds by virtually everything, from the AIDS virus to flat tires. Were we to change or modify every aspect of American life that is “offensive” to blacks, there would be nothing recognizable of the United States. And I find the “offensiveness” of the Confederate flag laughable as an excuse for black violence. Should we suppose that the scandalous number of white victims of black violent crime were all flying Confederate flags, which then provoked their assailants into uncontrollable rage? In any case, under what prescription of democracy or republican government is it mandated that II percent of the population always exercises a veto over whatever the other 89 percent wishes to do, or in this case, commemorate? Time to call a halt to this not-so-subtle form of terrorism and set a few people straight.
Fortunately we do have a choice of symbols, but that is not really the crux of the Confederate flag debate. In my opinion, as a Southerner, few if any folk fly that flag out of “pride of ancestry,” “love of country,” or any other highfalutin motive. When that flag is flown, it is in protest of and resistance to the excesses of blacks and the privileges they receive in our country today. It is the exact equivalent to the Malcolm X T-shirts, the black-green-red “African” flag, and all the other black power symbolism which blacks are able to flaunt in public with impunity.
A final point. It is interesting that while blacks claim to have been enslaved for some 300 years, the Confederacy lasted for only four. This means that for 296 of those years, blacks were enslaved under other flags, i.e., the various versions of the Stars and Stripes, the British flag, and the French and Spanish flags, yet I am not aware of any blacks being “offended” at the sight of those flags. Indeed, blacks remained in slavery in Brazil and Cuba for some time after they were emancipated in the United States, and I have never heard of black protests against the flags of those countries. And of course blacks are even now in slavery in Mauritania and Sudan, vet where is the outrage and protest?
No, black “outrage” is all too selective and has nothing to do with “symbols of slavery.” Blacks know well that they would get absolutely nowhere should they protest against those flags, and so they target the Confederate flag because we allow them to do so. It is time that we stood up to this bullying and, regardless of the symbol, made it perfectly clear that we will fly any flag we choose, just as blacks do.
—Donald M. Miller
Mexico Laredo, TX