This is not a heritage I choose to celebrate

I have several ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. I could probably count the number of ancestors from north of the Mason-Dixon line on both hands. In short, I am just about as Southern as you can get. Do I choose to represent that part of my identity with the Confederate flag?

Hell. No.

Just because my ancestors fought for the Confederacy does not mean I choose to identify with everything it stood for. That flag stands for the oppression of whole people groups, for hatred, for death, for standing on the backs of others. Slavery was a horrible, horrible mistake, and whatever you think the Confederate flag stands for, it is still seen today by the majority as a symbol for the right to own another human being. It will never be redeemed from that identity. Until this nation crumbles to dust, that flag will forever be a reminder of evil deeds.

It doesn’t matter what your great-great-grandfather thought, whether or not he owned slaves, why he fought for the Confederacy – maybe he just did it because he was from Georgia and it was Us vs Them – the symbolism of the Confederate flag remains unchanged. The death and hatred it is steeped in remains unchanged. When you fly the Confederate flag, you are endorsing inequality, you are telling Americans that their opinions do not matter because your opinions are More Correct, you are choosing to blindly bury your ancestral shame rather than regretfully remember and move forward in freedom.

I regret that my family may have had a part in defending the enslavement of other human beings. I choose to say “They were wrong.” I don’t have to agree with my ancestors. I don’t have to carry their shame. I don’t have to fly their flag.

I think that maybe we can take a cue from our German brothers and sisters here. A legacy of hatred and death (National Socialism, aka Nazism) came out of Germany in the early-mid 20th century. However, Germans don’t have to identify with Nazism in order to call themselves German. Just like I don’t have to identify with the Confederacy in order to call myself Southern. If it’s possible to be German without being Nazi, it’s possible to be Southern without being Confederate. I would even venture to say that glorifying the Confederate flag is like glorifying the Nazi flag. It’s glorifying a symbol of hate and ignoring the pain it signifies for others.

I am proud of my Southern heritage. I am proud of the effort and toil my ancestors put forth, the generations who first farmed Georgian and Tennessean soil. Because of that, I choose respect and honor. I choose a legacy of hard work and loving God and loving people. I choose to not fly the Confederate flag.

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2 thoughts on “This is not a heritage I choose to celebrate

  1. Excellent points made in your blog. I can relate on a different level. As an Italian American, I still feel shamed by the fascist regime that one ruled my ancestral homeland but I do not honor it as part of my heritage and speak against historical and contemporary fascism where ever it appears. My pride is in the best contributions of my culture and I condemn vigorously those who would defend that hateful era in Italian history.

  2. Re: “…glorifying the Confederate flag is like glorifying the Nazi flag. It’s glorifying a symbol of hate and ignoring the pain it signifies for others.”

    You make a good point. And an odd footnote is that the Nazi symbol was a symbol expropriated from another culture (Hindu?). It’s hard to understand the intensity of the emotion that some innocent Southerners have for keeping the flag. They seem to need a flag representing Southern Culture in its honorable aspects. I think the intense anger may come from the way Southerners are portrayed in movies and in the media in general. There are whole collections of Hick-hillbilly stereotypes that Hollywood and the mainstream media constantly use. The problem is like the evolution of connotations. A word can begin with a benign and literal meaning but if it becomes the victim of being used as a euphemism it may be doomed in its use to convey its literal meaning. People who are not native speakers of English can sound ridiculous if they use the literal definition given in a dictionary. Dictionaries often give no clue to the latest connotations that a word has accumulated. And the historical record is a problem: the name of the period of the 1890’s no longer describes the era (used to be called “The Gay 90’s”). So Hollywood has trapped “Southern Culture” in a deep pit. Maybe that explains the intensity of emotion and the need for a symbol. Women walking on the street with dictionaries should be careful how they describe themselves. And unfortunately, nobody can be “special” anymore.

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