Heritage or hate? A musing about the Confederate battle flag.

Tony Gerard posted this on his Facebook page in August, 2015, and he brought it up as another point view in discussion related to the Confederate battle flag. We thought it merited posting here as it is a unique perspective from the usual assumptions the media makes about the flag.  We welcome your views in the comments below.

Today we were headed to Paducah when we saw this guy on a Johnson county (Illinois) overpass waving a Confederate battle flag. Is he a racist? I have no idea who he is, but I bet he would say he is not. I bet many of my black friends would say he is. It’s a cultural misunderstanding, and it’s one in which I think I can see both sides.


Photo Tony took of the guy waving the Confederate battle flag.

Photo Tony took of the guy waving the Confederate battle flag.

Most of my white southern friends would say the Confederate battle flag is a symbol of southern heritage and pride. Ok, so this guy is in Illinois- a state which fought for the Union. Ok, so you can say that southern Illinois was full of southern sympathizers during the civil war and culturally we southern Illinoisans are actually southern. We say “ya’ll” and we know that real barbeque is slow cooked pulled pork (not that weird sloppy joe stuff they call barbeque elsewhere). We have cypress trees and cottonmouth snakes here. But it’s not just southerners who lay claim to the Confederate battle flag. Kid Rock and Ted Nugent are pro-Confederate battle flag and those guys are both from Michigan!

Background article on Kid Rock and his attachment to the Confederate battle flag.

An article ranting against Ted Nugent’s record as a villain.

In 2015 Nugent talks about symbolism.

Driving home last month from Los Angeles I saw trucks (always trucks) flying Confederate battle flags in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Missouri. So were these guys in Arizona and California displaced southerners? I doubt it. The Confederate battle flag has become the symbol of redneck pride. Redneck pride may have started out as a rural southern thing, but it’s evolved. Rural folks all over America have now taken pride in their status as rednecks. Larry the Cable Guy, redneck icon, is from Nebraska. But being a redneck is pretty exclusively a white thing. Are rednecks racists? I’m sure many are but I’m just as sure that most are not. Is the Confederate battle flag a symbol of white supremacy for them? Nope. It’s a symbol of their status as hard working, hard partying, boot wearing, unpretentious, sleeveless T shirt wearin’, truck drivin’ rural folks. Racism has nothing to do with it.

Larry the Cable Guy on how he talks:

Regardless of what it means culturally to those folks, this flag did start out as the BATTLE flag of a group willing to die to defend the right for one group of people to hold another group as property.  Yeah, yeah, you can say that the civil war was fought over state’s rights, but it was the right to have slaves that was the biggest point of contention.

When did people start displaying Confederate battle flags as a personal statement? You don’t really see them in southern pictures from the 1920’s, 30’s or 40’s. It seems to have started in the 50’s and become more widespread in the 1960’s and early 70’s. During the civil rights movement. Where do you see it? Among the supporters of segregation… and yeah, that was a racist thing. So can I really expect black folks to just get over their distaste for it because I’ve explained that it’s no longer a racist thing? Probably not.

So where do I stand on it? I used to have a hat with a rebel flag on it. It represented southern pride for me. Did I think about it being offensive to black people? Nope, never gave it a thought. Will I be wearing it now (actually I lost it years ago) just to show that my rights as a redneck will not be infringed? Nope. Now I’ve thought about it. I have many black friends I love and respect. That symbol may make some of them feel bad, and their friendship is more important to me than that symbol.

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