Opinion: America Needs to Recognize That the Confederate Flag Is a Symbol of Racism

Walter Rhein

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When you think about it, it’s pretty offensive that several states still use Confederate symbols in their state flags. Why would we allow that?

There was a time when respect and human decency meant something. We try to teach our children to be respectful of their parents. We try to teach our children to be respectful of their teachers. We try to teach our children to be respectful of themselves.

All of that goes out the window when our society shows tolerance for a blatant symbol of racism. Some people argue that the Confederate flag stands for tradition or it stands for history. But neither of those arguments is a denial that it also stands for racism.

Some even insist that racism does not exist in the United States. When you think about it, that’s a pretty difficult position to defend.

Saying racism doesn’t exist is like saying that evil doesn’t exist. We know that evil exists because it’s a part of human nature. The Founding Fathers conceived of the idea of separation of powers because they didn’t trust any one person to wield complete authority.

This is why it’s weird to have discussions in the United States. People will accuse you of hating the country for admitting that human beings can be corrupted. But we’re also trained to revere the Founding Fathers. One of the main philosophical beliefs of the Founding Fathers was that people can be corrupted by power.

Isn’t it odd that you can be accused of hating the country for repeating the warnings of the historical figures that are most respected in that country?

I’m not even sure that everyone in America will agree that racism is wrong. I think that some people might be inclined to talk about racism as a part of history. Then they’ll say that we can’t erase history.

So, let’s not talk about racism. Let’s talk about respect. Can we all agree that it’s important to show respect for each other?

The United States of America is a divided country. Is it unreasonable to say that the country is divided because people don’t show the proper amount of respect for their neighbors? Isn’t that the essence of division?

Is it fair to say that speaking profane words is disrespectful? Can people admit to that, or do they insist that profanity is “part of history?”

When I was growing up, teachers punished students who used profanities at school. Today, when you go to pick up your kids from school, you see vehicle after vehicle with profane political stickers. Why do my children have to look at that?

Sometimes you see vehicles that are decorated with the Confederate flag. If you live in a state that incorporates Confederate symbols into the state flag, you might have to look at those symbols every day.

Can we be honest and acknowledge that some symbols do have a disrespectful meaning? If you raise the middle finger of your hand, everybody knows what that means. If you say, “That’s disrespectful,” nobody argues with you. Nobody says, “Telling me to put down my middle figure is an attempt to erase history.”

I don’t think the erasing history argument is sincere.

When somebody approaches you and says that you’re being disrespectful, you have two options. You can listen to the person and try to see things from their perspective. Or, you can deny what the person has to say.

You are free to choose either of these two options. However, it’s important to recognize that if you choose the second option, you are creating division. You are showing disrespect. You are choosing to distance yourself from the people in your community.

It would be a nice show of respect if all the citizens of the United States voluntarily removed all Confederate symbols from public view. Those symbols stand for history, those symbols stand for tradition, and those symbols stand for racism.

The best way to unify our country is to rededicate ourselves to treating each other with respect. Let’s make manners important again. We should bring back courtesy. We should listen to each other.

We will unify our country with respect. Profanity and racism are the opposite of respect.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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