I am a Southerner and I love the South. I’ve lived other places, but my heart will always belong in Dixie. Always. I guess you can say it’s in my blood. Half of my family has been here nearly nine generations, the other only left the South a couple of generations back. I am a proud Southerner, but I’m against flying the Confederate flag.
I feel like you can’t really get a good understanding of how Southerners might feel unless you look at the Civil War. I’ve always found this war tragic, yet extremely fascinating. Somehow, I got a chance to study it with a notable historian in college and it was one of the most interesting and exciting courses I got to take. The professor was actually from somewhere up North and joked that had a great “yankee accent” and a “Northern perspective.” Even with loyalties far outside of our Southern region, he still understood the complexities of the Civil war and the plentiful and varying causes for Southern secession. Slavery was one of the main issues, but definitely not the only one. With only a tiny fraction of the population owning any slaves, most of the Confederate army was made up of poor white young men who were fighting for their region, not to keep slaves they never had. No one issue can be easily pointed to as the cause of the war. War just usually isn’t that simple.
The war was brutal for both sides and even though the South suffered greatly, one could argue that Reconstruction was the worst offense with lasting consequences. Reconstruction was no Prodigal son moment, it was punitive and vindictive. To give you just one small example, records show that President Johnson made many wealthy southerners come to his office and literally beg for forgiveness and to have their US citizenship restated. I think we were nicer to Japan and Germany following WWII than we were to lower half of our country after the Civil war. And many speculate (me included) that part of the southern landscape never got over it. I mean, many people still put on Civil war reenactments 150 years later- that doesn’t necessarily demonstrate to me that they’re over it. I like to think about the reunification of the union like two estranged brothers forced to live close and play nice, despite not all of the issues ever being resolved.
And that’s why over 150 years later, we’re here. Generations have passed but not all wounds have healed. The South is still a proud but damaged place, still trying to rebuild while holding on to its remaining identity. Yes, slavery was abhorrent. No way around that. Even so, there are so many wonderful things about the South both then and now. But just because we have still have pride in out beautiful region doesn’t mean that we should fly the Confederate flag. I honestly believe that there are individuals who feel an affinity towards that emblem without harboring racist ideals, but the flag has come to mean more than just southern pride. The flag lost its meaning over and over again when it was present at lynchings, KKK rallies, and other horrific events. In the 1860’s, the flag represented many ideals but now it’s been stained with the sins of the racist actions it’s flown over.
So today I think it’s time we accept that the flag should be taken down. I’m glad to see that in both Mississippi and South Carolina, it will no longer appear on state grounds and will be taken out of the Mississippi flag. I hope that individuals will come to see it as an inappropriate symbol in our modern day and will not want to be associated for what it has come to represent.