Yes, It’s about Heritage

More and more I’m wanting the left to engage in rhetorical judo. There are so many times when watching clips from the impeachment hearings that I just want the witnesses to verbally hip-throw the dishonest and untenable premises of the questions that they are asked.

Likewise, we’re talking again about the confederate flag and “heritage”. PZ quotes officials from the town of Wake Forest, NC (via a Washington Post article) saying

“We recognize that for some the flag represents racism, hatred and bigotry, while others see it as a representation of Southern heritage protected as a matter of freedom of speech/freedom of expression.”

Why are these officials able to frame this as a dichotomy. Don’t we have any competent journalists here? The correct response should be:

These views are not at odds. The confederate flag represents racism, hatred, and bigotry. It further and even more intensely represents violence: the violence committed against US troops simply doing their jobs, protecting the nation, who were violently attacked by traitors as well as the many civilians who were beaten and killed during slavery and Jim Crow to prevent kidnappers from being held accountable or simply to control captives.

This is a mater of history, and as our heritage is the sum of history’s effects on our present, this racism, hatred, bigotry and violence are a part of that heritage. And yes, flying a flag, any flag, is a protected act of speech in almost any circumstance you could imagine. But we, today, criticize that act with speech of our own, because as much as racism, hatred, bigotry and violence are indeed our heritage, passed down from the generations who came before, we are not satisfied passing it down again.

Absolutely this is our heritage, and that is a tragedy. We live and work for the day when these things cease being heritage and pass instead into history.




  1. says

    I like to ask “Why don’t today’s Republicans put up statues to Reconstruction Republican politicians like Robert Smalls? Who was a former slave who stole the CSS Planter out from under his Confederate slave owner’s nose and turned it over to the Union Navy. Along with freeing his crew members and their families.
    And other Republicans who worked to guarantee freedmen’s rights during that time, many of whom were former slaves themselves?”

  2. M. Currie says

    Aside from the obvious points made, if “heritage” is to be an issue, what about mine? All my ancestors were on the Union side and some of them died for it. Once upon a time there was a war, It was a terrible one. The United States won. The proponents of the “lost cause” seem to have forgotten one of the more prominent words there. Maybe it’s time we adopted the execrable conservative cry of “suck it up, buttercup.”

  3. brucegee1962 says

    And yes, flying a flag, any flag, is a protected act of speech in almost any circumstance you could imagine.

    Any circumstance? I mean, if it’s on land you own then ok, I suppose it’s your right. But if it’s on a t-shirt that you’re wearing to school, it’s pretty offensive speech, and schools do have a right to maintain discipline.

  4. says


    Any circumstance?

    I said “almost any circumstance” for a reason.

    As for your example of flags on a t-shirt in school, well, there’s Tinker v. Des Moines to cover that. Administrators can’t ban the symbol because they think it might cause disruption. Only if it actually causes disruption can they do so – they basically would have to wait until some sort of violence or at minimum learning disruption occurs before banning that symbol.

    Even then, though, as you concede that’s not flying a flag. That’s wearing a t-shirt with a symbol on it.

    In most of the circumstance you might propose, it wouldn’t be the flag that’s the problem. It would be other behaviors. You hint at flying flags on someone else’s land. You could be nailed for trespass if you weren’t welcome, but if you were entitled to be there the flag itself wouldn’t be the problem. In a manner that maybe wouldn’t make sense to non-lawyers, the law would consistently distinguish between some other act (like trespass) and a display of a symbol like a flag. Courts would bend over backwards to try to rule on whether behavior was legal or illegal without referencing the content of any given flag.

    There are some circumstances where displaying a symbol and the communicative content of that symbol would be inseparable from whether or not an act is illegal. For instance in the context of charging criminal harassment where a person has been the victim of racist threats, carrying a confederate flag onto their property might be evidence that the person carrying the flag is participating in that pattern of threats. These situations, however, will be rare. For the most parts courts will resolutely work to avoid considering the content of a symbol and focus on anything else to decide any legal issues arising out of some conduct that also involves the display of a flag or other symbol.

  5. StevoR says

    That’s an excellent suggested answer. I really hope it or something like it gets said. Dunno if the Congresscritters involved here take suggestions but couldn’t hurt to try asking them surely?

  6. Naglfar says

    This is my first time delurking here. Some of you may know me from WHTM, as I know there as some commenters in common between the two blogs.

    The thing which is more annoying than flags to me is statues. We have statues of Confederate generals all over the South, and even some in the North. There are schools, public buildings, and even military bases named after Confederate generals. These were people who fought for slavery and hate, not heroes. In my eyes, having a statue of Robert E. Lee is not all that different from having a statue of Osama bin Laden or Adolf Hitler. All 3 men were enemies of the United States, who attacked our country and killed our people. We shouldn’t build statues to honor our enemies.
    Most confederate statues were built in the 1910s, when Reconstruction had ended and white southerners had created Jim Crow laws to maintain white supremacy. Conservatives like to pretend they were created soon after the war, but this is false. They were created explicitly to reinforce white supremacy.

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