Despite South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s apparent willingness to lower the Confederate battle flag, no one should be fooled into believing that the fight over this flag will be short and sweet. It will likely be long and dirty.
Already one of the Klan factions has decided to rally for the flag. And Tea Partiers have added their sentiments to the pro-Confederate flag clan. The Sons of Confederate Veterans, which will have a national “reunion” in Richmond on July 15-19, has yet to speak out loudly on this issue. Similarly, the more militant League of the South will meet later in July. IREHR expects both these organizations to campaign for their flag.
On January 8, 2000, 6,000 pro-Confederate men and women marched with battle flags in Columbia, the South Carolina capitol, as I document in my book Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream. That march smothered the South Carolina NAACP’s campaign to lower the flag, which had begun in 1994. Simply put, many of those marchers are still anxious to repeat that earlier success.
While there were some who are willing to make the argument that the flag represents “heritage not hate,” the actual facts of the case tell us the truth.
The so-called Confederate flag was actually the battle flag of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and not one of the many “national” flags of the Confederacy. Further, The Confederate States of America Vice President, Alexander Stephens, had in an 1861 speech, explicitly defended white supremacy. “The negro (sic) is not equal to the white man, that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural condition. This, our new government [the Confederacy] is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
In other words, the Stars and Bars is the unvarnished battle flag of militant white supremacy. Militant white nationalists are known for proudly stating the truth, although not in those exact words. Jared Taylor, the American Renaissance editor who served most recently as the spokesman for the Council of Conservative Citizens, defended the flag and the Confederacy in the 1990s in the pages of a Sons of Confederate Veterans newsletter. “The reason why the Confederacy is under such violent attack today is the it is a symbol not only of the white subculture that the ethnic saboteurs wish to destroy, but it is also seen—rightly or wrongly—as a symbol of white culture that refuses to apologize. What better way to attack white America than to insult the last remnant of a proud white America [emphasis in original].”
Taking down the flag will not be the last battle over Confederate symbols that still infect the South. Schools, community centers and state and federal parks all bear the names of the defenders of slavery. In every county seat across the South, statues of Confederate soldiers stand near the county courthouse. Most were erected 100 years ago by the Daughters of the Confederacy. And in the future, statues of black Union soldiers will stand by each one, just as the statue of tennis great Arthur Ashe now stands among the row of Confederate heroes in Richmond, Virginia.
The racists, white supremacists, neo-Confederate activists and others will mobilize to keep this racist banner flying. Before the forces of decent minded people of all races will take it down, they need to mobilize themselves, their friends, and their distant cousins to win this fight over the Confederate battle flag flying in South Carolina.