Ever read Matthew 23:24, “You blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” Ever heard the expression that the “south lost the (civil war) but won the peace?” I am not celebrating the “take down of the Confederate flag in South Carolina.” To me it is empty symbolism that does not go far enough. Should Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Amarillo, and others all across the south, be renamed? Should Amarillo’s Tascosa High “Rebels” be forced to ditch their name? If the Washington Redskins need to ditch their name why not the Tascosa Rebels, named for the “rebel soldiers” who fought for the Southern Confederacy, “rebellions” states that seceded from the union in the name of “states rights” to maintain slavery? Should black students at Tascosa High be offended by their mascot?
I recently posted a column asking what Robert E. Lee would say about the Confederate Flag. I’m sure my readers saw the irony of a column asking what a defeated Civil War general would say about the confederate flags still flying high as well as the thousands of monuments to the man who lost the war—to the same man who was commander during the loss of hundreds of confederate soldiers lives at the Battle of Gettysburg and then said that the massive loss of life was “his own fault.” How did Confederate General Robert E. Lee snatch victory from the jaws of defeat to become one of the most celebrated “war heroes” in America, including his many images on U. S postage stamps? Well, we know the answer—the same answer that explains why the confederate flag has flown over so many southern capitols and other symbols and monuments to the “Old Confederacy.”
I know about the confederate flag controversy. I was chairman of a Texas county historical commission some years ago and I had to give assorted speeches and appearances standing under the confederate flag. I remember taking a lot of flak from people who thought that I should refuse to give a historical speech in front of citizens who carried the confederate flag. I ignored the flag and kept talking. I kept talking as a confederate flag flew right in front of my eyes because I could see that the flag was not the real issue. The real issue was the confederate flag attitude—an attitude that is alive and well all across America. The confederate flag attitude is the same attitude that was prevalent not long after the civil war ended and the south “fought back” to retain the same oppressive system against African Americans that former slaves thought the Civil War would remove. But we know history, and we know that not long after the Civil War ended, efforts to “reconstruct” black lives were met with wholesale white resistance resulting in the reinstitution of “near slavery” conditions for black America. What we know is that the federal government capitulated to the south and abandoned the newly freed slaves to the “confederate attitude” that all but maintained slavery for the next 100 years. What we know is that the south was hell bent on keeping blacks in some type of bondage and peonage including share cropping, slave labor, prison slave labor, terrorism of the worst kind, black codes, and an entire system of separate and unequal laws that allowed the south to truly “win the peace.” And it is this system, this confederate flag attitude that is still alive and well not only in South Carolina but all across the south—and the rest of America.
Taking down a flag will not begin to address the years of black social and economic oppression that has resulted in the black-white wealth gap we see today. Taking down the confederate flag will not begin to change or give back the lives lost and families destroyed by the mass incarceration of black men and other atrocities meted out to black America. Taking down a confederate flag will not change the “confederate flag heart” of the deep south—and the rest of America—including Amarillo, Texas. The “confederate flag heart” of the deep south runs through the blood of generations of white families for whom passing on prejudice is the same as passing on family DNA. When someone comes up with a way to remove the confederate flag attitude from the hearts and minds of white America then let me know. When someone comes up with a way for America to truly atone and make reparations for the 150 years of economic damage done to African Americans then let me know. Then I will celebrate the removal of a confederate flag from a pole.
Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.