Opinion: Why Can't Americans Recognize the Confederate Flag Is Racist?

Walter Rhein

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It’s stunning how many Americans refuse to acknowledge that the Confederate flag is racist. This flag has come to represent treason against the United States. To this day, there are still places in former Confederate states that celebrate the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

I find that all of these concepts do not fit with the American tradition of respecting our country. Students are expected to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance at the beginning of a school day. Some people become very offended at the idea that students would not say the pledge.

I have to wonder what people who fly the Confederate flag at home think about saying the pledge of allegiance. Do they claim that it’s a matter of “tradition” or “history” to show disrespect to the American flag?

Why do so many other Americans tolerate those arguments?

What I don’t understand is why there would be so much media outrage over a professional football player respectfully kneeling during the National Anthem. Even the president denounced that action.

Kneeling shows respect. I think it’s far more disrespectful to fly a flag associated with racism, treason, and assassination.

Why is there such a dead spot in the media regarding the Confederate flag? Why don’t more Americans recognize that it is an offensive symbol?

In many states, Confederate symbols are still used on the state flag. Why should our nation tolerate symbols that come from a philosophy of sedition?

Perhaps our nation shows too much tolerance to individuals who believe they can solve problems with violence rather than compromise. People will say we have “freedom of speech” in the United States. However, I can’t recall those people defending professional football players who kneeled.

It’s much less offensive to kneel than to fly a treason flag.

Also, there are already reasonable limitations on our freedom of speech. You’re not allowed to threaten government officials. That’s the way it should be. We can’t have mobs calling for violence against our fairly elected officials under any circumstances. That’s not law and order. That’s not patriotic.

I would suggest that the Confederate flag represents a threat of violence against fairly elected government officials. It’s a symbol of treason. It’s a symbol of an assassination of a president. It’s a symbol of racism.

People like to say, “you can’t erase history.” Well, I’ve just detailed the true history of the Confederate flag. I’m not arguing that we should erase that history. I’m arguing that those that support that message be held accountable for their anti-American beliefs.

Most people in the United States recognize there will be severe social consequences if they fly a Swastika. I would argue that the Confederate flag is no less offensive as a symbol. You might have a legal right to fly a Swastika, but the other people in your community also have a right to form an opinion on you based on the choice to fly that flag.

Anyone who owns a business should be wary of the consequences of hiring somebody who flies either a Confederate flag or a Swastika. In the United States of America, you still have the freedom to choose which businesses you will support. If customers pull into a parking lot and see a bunch of Confederate flags and Swastikas on display on the vehicles, they’re likely to take their business elsewhere.

Flying hate symbols leaves you alone and alienated. Your friends are likely to stop talking to you. Your family is likely to disown you. That leads to frustration. Why are people choosing hate symbols rather than the loyalty and companionship of friends and family?

Our schools need to teach the true history of the Confederate flag. Unfortunately, many textbooks favor the “lost cause” narrative which provides a sanitized and inaccurate version of the Confederacy. For the truth about the Confederacy, students should start with the Cornerstone Speech.

We need to work towards achieving a society that is based on tolerance. The Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. Today, too many people think they should defend it. Our society would be better served if we taught our children the truth about our nation’s history.

We'd have a better society if everyone in our nation showed more respect for each other. That includes not flying racist symbols and claiming it's "tradition."

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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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