Rednecks, Racists and Flags of the Confederacy

Apologies to Heather Vandagriff for lifting her entire Google+ post, but it’s necessary to understand my content found after:

How many of you think this image is the Confederate Stars and Bars?

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No, this is what is called the Confederate Battle Flag, this particular one being from the 31st TN.

When you are in the south, and you see this flag, it can mean several things. It can mean that you’ve run across what we call a redneck. Rednecks are not necessarily stupid, and you don’t have to have Dueling Banjos playing in the background. And to them generally, this flag does NOT represent racism, nor is it meant to offend you.

During what we call The War (short for The War of Northern Aggression), only a minority percentage of the white population of the South held slaves. Everyone else was fighting because they believed states had a right to secede. (I realize the rest of the universe sees things differently, I’m explaining how we see it.)

In any case, this flag does not, as some people would like to assume mean that the person bearing it is racist. It can, but as with most things, asking generally clears up intent. Great great grandaddy might’ve fought in the war, never owning slaves, only because his brother was killed by the Yankees. You can’t assume. I have a pro-Southern-culture friend who is black who has one on his truck. He loves the irony. Yes, he is a redneck, too. If you saw his truck without him, would you think he was in the Klan?

IF, on the the other hand, you see THIS…

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…on a license plate, or maybe a tie tack, or lapel pin, you are looking at the actual Confederate National Flag. The person wearing or bearing that flag is absolutely not stupid, ever. They know their history, and culture. And they might well be racist. Actual Klan members know this flag to be the one proper to display to show support of “The Cause”, and so you could be talking to one. Or they really could be overly into re-enacting.

The funny thing is, I see all manner of folk being offended with the battle flag, when that’s not even THE flag with which they should be offended at all.

So having said all that, why the knee-jerk at the wrong symbol? It makes me laugh to hear people kick sand about one, and never even notice the other when it is all around as a quiet and recognized symbol of the South by the folks most likely to be offensively prejudiced.

Just something to ponder.

I do definitely understand why the Confederate Battle Flag isn’t necessarily something that everyone should freak out about, but it’s been tarnished by being associated with the Confederacy in general. You will never look at a swastika without thinking of Nazi Germany either, yet the swastika has many meanings to many different people.

Another way of putting it: don’t date the sweet, innocent cousin from an Italian mob.

I used to be completely insensitive to anyone displaying the Confederate Battle Flag when I was younger. Having learned much more about the history, flags in general and the Confederate flags in particular, I take a more critical instead of reflexive tact whenever I see one.

Part of the reason I’m still initially suspicious of CBF bearers is because racism and prejudice is still far too alive today, just more overtly. It’s been broken down to a nationalist identity somewhat blind to color until the subject of immigration is broached and then the xenophobic expletives start flying, too often in the same language racists apply.

Being a Caucasian first generation Hispanic immigrant, moving from New York City to Indiana has opened my eyes to a wide world of confusion. The people are lovely. They’re genuinely nice. In general, they’re as lacking in education and a thirst for knowledge as the people you’d find in NYC, but they’re more friendly than your typical New Yorker. I’ve also found out that is as much a veneer as anything on Joan Rivers’ face once you initiate the right subjects. Getting preached about people like me to my face by someone who thinks I’m just like them, a native born American, is wonderful. I get to know what it’s like being in the Klan.

I know it’s not so simple, and I understand that this isn’t racism. It’s xenophobia due to a misunderstanding of basic economic principles that are counter-intuitive and challenge common sense. It’s one of those things people who know better get frustrated with others for not knowing but at the same time is understandably uncommon knowledge. Most people tend to act on their fears first and reflect later, if they bother with the latter at all.

From the perspective of a minority who doesn’t personally get the Southern culture, however, the nuanced understanding that it’s not racism and normal prejudice is still hard to swallow and hearing people bearing the CBF spit out that kind of language makes it a bit more than difficult to simply let it go.

I would suggest Southerners who wish to reclaim their CBF should encourage those who fly the Confederate National Flag higher and more proudly and prominently while going behind their backs with a campaign to make people aware of the true symbol of “The Cause” and its sympathizers.

Heather asked: “So having said all that, why the knee-jerk at the wrong symbol?”

The answer is simple and clear: Everyone sees the CBF. Most do not know the CNF.

Until I moved to Indiana, all I knew was the CBF. As a matter of fact, I believed it was the flag of the Civil War south. I guarantee I can slip a fly strip out of a window 15 stories up in a NYC apartment and it would catch a hundred New Yorkers who have never seen anything but the CBF.

Apropos: “So when someone shows the CBF, it doesn’t matter what the historical truth is, just their intent.”

I do agree with this as a fact, but this is impractical. Someone bearing a swastika may have personal intent unknown to you but unless you know that intent, you cannot assert one way or another – and will likely try to avoid that person without asking. True, someone raising the CBF isn’t as threatening as someone wearing a swastika on their body (or, at least, that person shouldn’t be perceived that way; many still would as I did at one point), but without that foreknowledge, not jumping to conclusions is an unfortunate challenge.

It’s a bit like someone dressing up provocatively in the street at night. One a purely logical basis, it’s foolish to assume she may be a prostitute, but you also can’t rule that out as well without asking. I sure as hell am not about to go up to her and ask.

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