POINT / COUNTERPOINT
Symbol of History or Symbol of Pain
My great great great-gran
ther fought in the Civil War on the Confederate side. He believed so much in
the southern ways that he left his family
for two-plus years to fight for what he
believed in. What he believed in was
states rights. He didn't want a federal
government telling him what he should
do with his land. This is what he believed in and this is part of my heritage.
True the Civil War was fought
over slavery, but it was not totally fought
in the name of slavery. My great great
great grandfather did not feel that a
federal government would best serve his
needs. True he also thought that slaves
should be treated as property. But this
part of my heritage I have fought with
my entire life and just take it that I can
not change the past.
The conferderate flag was part
of this culture. It was a part of culture
that half of the country believed in.
Justy like the star of David is representative of the Jewish culture, the confederate flag is part of my culture.
Many African Americans feel that
to raise the confederate flag is offensive. Whether or not it is offensive it is
part of my heritage and therefore should
be representative of southern history.
Now the Klu Klux Klan wave this
as a symbol of racism. They have totally
taken this symbol of southern history
out of context. I do not stand behind
their beliefs of racism, but I feel that
there is no shame in the confederate
I feel that if the KKK did not use
this flag as one of their symbols of racism, then it would be accepted as part of
history. I do not wave it or wear the
confederate flag as a symbol that defines who I am, but I do accept it and
cherish it as my culture.
Sure the South has had its dark
days but people are forgetting that a
new south has risen, where blacks and
whites do not have to recognize each
other by the color of their skin but they
can both together celebrate their southern heritage.
Dominique Dawes won the gold medal and the U.S.
National Title in gymnastics this year. She executed an almost
flawless routine in front of an enthusiastic crowd, seasoned
judges... and the Confederate Flag.
Seeing that flag in the background as an African American woman performed in a national, not Southern, competition
was a slap in the face of many African Americans. Despite the
claims that the Confederate Flag represents Southern pride and
tradition, for a multitude of African Americans it means nothing
of the sort. To us, it symbolizes a time when our ancestors were
continuously and ruthlessly robbed- of their dignity, of their
rights, of their lives and sometimes, even of their very souls.
I am Southern- by birth, by style, by attitude. I was born
in Louisiana and have lived there all my life. 1 am proud of the
genteel ways that exist down here, of the friendliness of my
neighbors, of the slower pace of our lives. All these are aspects of
the "Southern Tradition" that we hear so much about, something
we can all identify with. So how can a flag that was used to keep
a whole race of people enslaved, a people that comprised a
significant part of the South, be representative of anything but
Supporters of the Confederate Flag claim that it was not
a banner for slavery, but a symbol for preserving states' rights.
It's strange how easy it is for them to forget that one of those
states' rights that was to be defended was the right of the South
to continue its inhumane institiution of slavery.
As a Southerner, I feel no pride when I see that horrible
flag. In fact, that symbol of racism and degradation can usually
be found at Ku Klux Klan rallies and anywhere bigots gather to
bemoan the fact that people of color might actually be given a fair
chance. And yet, it is not the KKK or bigots who worry me. Their
positions are made clear. It is the clean-cut, young, white
Southern men who stand behind that flag and claim Southern
pride. These young men aren't necessarily racist, but often just
ignorant- or uncaring- of what the Confederate Flag means to a
whole race of people. It is this ignorance that allows misunderstandings and hatred to be perpetuated from generation to
So why do we make such a big deal about the Confederate
Flag, an emblem of "Southern pride," a sign of the "glory days"
of the South long gone? Because that is not what that flag
represents. It represents the endless pain, the incessant tears of
my people. It represents a time when we were no more than
property. It represents centuries of humiliation and heartbreak,
brainwashing and body-breaking, unheard cries and ignored
suffering. It symbolizes an era when "man's inhumanity to man"
reached its pinnacle. So each time I and millions of African
Americans see that flag and we shudder or frown or shake our
heads, please don't say that you don't understand why we can't
let the past go. The strength it took to overcome that past helps
define us. The chains that held us in that past still entrap us. The
pain of that past still holds us. And the symbols that allowed that
past to be so brutal- symbols like the Confederate Flag- still haunt
s us. -LaGuana K. Gray