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Saturday, June 27, 2015

The flag debate

I'm of two minds concerning the current debate over display of the Confederate battle flag. On one hand, I feel angry that we have coddled southern arrogance for the past 150 years. The south must finally accept that their cause was defeated, and that this defeat was quite deserved. I am unswayed by the argument that the Stars and Bars represents a "cultural" heritage, because I refuse to honor a culture based on racism and superstition. Thus, I'm glad to see stories like this one.

On the other hand: The flag debate is really just a diversion. Once again, we are focusing our attention on a symbol rather than the thing-in-itself. Mary Frances Berry has it just right:
By every concrete measure, ordinary African Americans have suffered during the Obama years. They have experienced double-digit unemployment rates even when overall unemployment rates subsided. Jobs in the public sector and in manufacturing, a historical haven for black workers, have been reduced; jobs in growing economic sectors have not materialized. Blacks are told they don’t have the skills even for jobs that don’t require skills, just on the job training. The Voting Rights Act and other measures to end education and employment discrimination have been undermined by the Supreme Court with no congressional relief in sight. Most significantly, the killings of unarmed African Americans by white civilians and law enforcement officers have become an almost common occurrence.
In 2008, we were repeatedly told by "progressives" (who, we now know, were whipped into a frenzy by David Axelrod's brigade of internet trolls) that Bill Clinton represented racism. A nonsensical charge. Under Clinton, the median income of African Americans rose by a third, and the poverty rates for black people fell to its lowest point ever.

For years, I've asked progressives to name a single black person not named Obama who has been made more prosperous by Obama. Well, there have been a few: Eric Holder, for example. But the hard fact is that African Americans have fared poorly under this administration -- and instead of rectifying that situation, we are focusing on symbols.

A symbol is nothing more than a bit of graphic design that stands for something else, something real. A symbol is a placeholder. It is not the actual thing.

Symbols do have a certain importance, but isn't it more important to have some spending money in your wallet? Isn't it more important to be able to walk down the street without being hassled by the cops?
The flag in question is not the stars and bars, but the southern cross. The confederate battle flag is square. The stars and bars is characterised by the presence of both stars and bars, not stars and a cross.
Joseph, are you African-American? Not?

Because if you're not, you probably shouldn't be lecturing black folks about the meaning and [non-]importance of symbols.

I'm sure you wouldn't be telling a black family to just ignore that noose someone nailed to the tree in their front yard. You wouldn't be suggesting they turn the other cheek when someone calls them niggers.

Those are symbols, too, but no longer deemed acceptable for use in polite company.

Since the 1950s, the confederate flag has been their replacement, the socially-acceptable substitute that means exactly the same thing as the noose and the n-word, while hiding behind the cover of respect for Southern heritage.
A black person I used to respect told me even if I end up sleeping under a bridge as long as black sleeps in the white house I am happy. Before Obama they used to call Clinton the first black
Flags of the Confederate States of America - WikipediaA
The Confederate States had three flags:
1. "Stars and Bars" (3 Mar 1861 to 30 Apr 1863). The first flag consisted of a blue square with (7-13) stars aranged in a circle in the upper left, and three horizontal bars of red, white and red.
2. "The Stainless Banner" (1 May 1963 to 3 Mar 1865). The second flag was all white (to symbolize supremacy of the white man) with "the Army of Northern Virginia battle flag" in the upper left.
3. "The Blood-Stained Banner" of 1865. The third flag added a verticle read strip on the right side.

Most, but not all, of the flags flown today are the "Army of Northern Virginia battle flag" aka "The Confederate Flag" first flown in 1961 and now flown at the statehouse in SC. The three Confederate state flags plus the Battle Flag were removed by the governor of Alabama.
Joe, You have a valid point about the symbolic value of the flag. My fear is that once it comes down, the twitter rage of some upper middle-class white progressives will dissipate and the same pressure won't be applied to solving the actual problems of institutional racism which leads to those miserable economic issues and the out of control policing. I especially worry about the dissipation if it appears that solutions to those problems could lead to their own taxes increasing or the dilution of some of our own innate privilege.
Michael, you have no right to speak for black people. I never claimed to do so.

One American exercising his right to speak his mind does not constitute "lecturing."

And I do feel that people -- not just black people: All people -- pay too much attention to symbols. I'll say it again: A symbol is not the thing-in-itself.

We make this mistake constantly.

Consider, for example, the rather insane debate we have had about burning the American flag. That flag, too is just a symbol. In the end, ALL symbols are nothing more than arbitrary pieces of graphic design; they are not really real. A Christian may think that the cross around his neck is important, but it isn't. It is not THE cross. The symbol is not the actual thing; no symbol ever devised in this history of mankind has ever had true importance.

If you want to make changes in this world, you have to address reality, not the insubstantial bits of graphic design that represent reality.
Just when the United States government started to do something about giving Blacks an opportunity to get an entry level manufacturing job the Willards of Wall street started moving them to Communist China. The Trans-Pacific Partnership will only make it worse which is why real Democrats don't support it.
Is the confederate flag a false flag?
The "stars and bars" is the real Confederate Flag, and looks different. The issue, if I recall, was that battle troops confused the flag of the South with that of the North, so the aforementioned flag is actually the 'battle flag' produced to replace it on the field, such that further organizational conundrums could be avoided.
The confederate battle flag is square, not rectangular.
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