Heritage. I’ve learned to hate that word.


Here’s Nikki Haley babbling about heritage to excuse confederate-flag-waving murderers.

“Here is this guy that comes out with this manifesto, holding the Confederate flag,” she said. “And had just hijacked everything that people thought of—we don’t have hateful people in South Carolina. It’s a small minority; it’s always going to be there.”

“People saw it as service, and sacrifice, and heritage,” the ex-governor continued. “But once he did that, there was no way to overcome it. And the national media came in droves—they wanted to define what happened. They wanted it to make this about racism. They wanted to make it about gun control. They wanted to make it about the death penalty.”

Apparently, according to Haley, the media at the time wanted to make the mass slaying of nine black people—an admittedly targeted racist attack, as laid out in Roof’s manifesto—about race.

Right. The Confederate flag wasn’t a symbol of hatred until Dylan Roof picked one up. It didn’t take a mass murderer of the national media to make that flag all about racism — that’s what it has always been about.

Here’s another one. The town of Wake Forest, NC decided to cancel their annual Christmas parade. For years, various Southern heritage groups have freely marched in these parades, but this year, they got word that protesters were going to show up, so they finally noticed that some people might criticize the celebration of treachery in their family-friendly event.

“Make no mistake about it — the Town of Wake Forest is extremely sensitive to the emotion the confederate flag stirs among those on both sides of this issue,” officials wrote in the statement. “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.”

Saying something is your “heritage” doesn’t mean it’s worthy and good. Everyone inherits bits of their culture that are both good and bad — it is the responsibility of every generation to winnow out the bad and strive to improve the heritage they leave to their children. Just because grandpappy did it does not automatically make it a blessed action. Your grandpappy might have been an asshole.

The southern heritage is always focused on the colossal catastrophe that afflicted the region a hundred years ago: the heritage of brutal slavery, a misbegotten war to defend white people’s right to own black people, and a humiliating, crushing defeat. You’re celebrating the wrong things! Waving the Confederate flag is a declaration that you’ve learned nothing, are pining for the “good ol’ days” when you could own slave labor and treat a significant part of your population as subhuman.

For the love of god, can Southerners please find something else to be proud of? Every time you put that hateful flag on your pickup truck, you’re telling me that the only thing you can think of to demonstrate pride in your heritage is a demonstration of barbarity and hatred and ignorance.

My grandpappy was an abusive drunk who was also an army engineer who served in WWII, who aspired to be an architect and was frustrated in his dream by poverty. This behavior is like putting a crumpled beer can on a stick and wacking women with it while saying “Woo hoo, Grandpa!”. That would be neither fair to the man or a part of his life that I want to emulate. But heritage makes it all OK, I guess?


Michael Harriot has a few words about the Confederate flag.

Comments

  1. Susan Montgomery says

    Is it even necessary to link pictures of Neo-Nazis or the KKK waving the Confederate flag at this point?

  2. says

    “Heritage” is also used to defend traditional gender roles, lack of church and state separation, homophobia, racism, alternative medicine, even pedophilia, etc.

    So yeah, I also hate that word. It pops up in all kinds of contexts.

  3. jrkrideau says

    I have never quite grasped why people who fought for/voted for, etc. the Confederate States of America are called traitors. Oh, right, they lost.

  4. says

    I have never quite grasped why people who fought for/voted for, etc. the Confederate States of America are called traitors. Oh, right, they lost.

    What? No, it’s not that they lost. They took up armed rebellion against the government of the nation into which they were born and in which they held citizenship. If I’m born in France and join a bunch of people who think that France is crap because the French diet is too focussed on breads and insufficiently focussed on green beans, it’s not going to be surprising that most of our support has a geographic focus in Brittany. If we can’t get the government to pass laws sufficiently favorable to our preferred green bean-based agricultural economy and as a result get so mad we start firing on les forces armées françaises, killing a couple hundred, then I am a fucking traitor to France.

    It doesn’t matter if my green bean rallying cry is persuasive and the ranks of my rebellious army swell and we end up defeating France and setting up our own République. It doesn’t matter if my rallying cry falls flat and we get steamrolled by the first full division to reach our home town. We are traitors regardless of the outcome.

    Likewise, the so-called “founding fathers” of the USA became traitors to the British empirical government of which they were then citizens the moment that they picked up arms and fired on the redcoats.

    Now, it might happen that they don’t get much criticism for that within the boundaries of the current USA, but objectively they sure as hell were traitors, and if anyone happened to call them that in my earshot I would have no reason to protest it. In fact, I wouldn’t protest it. That’s good fact there, that is.

  5. says

    If it wan’t a symbol of racial hatred before Roof picked it up, why did Roof pick it up?

    He wanted a symbol of racial hatred and correctly identified it as such. Unlike Haley he was honest about his shitty convictions.

  6. says

    Crip Dyke @#4

    What? No, it’s not that they lost. They took up armed rebellion against the government of the nation into which they were born and in which they held citizenship.

    According to your definition, Henning von Tresckow (a German who attempted to assassinate Hitler) is a traitor? Maybe Oskar Schindler also qualifies? After all, he rebelled against the government of the nation into which he was born?

    The word “traitor” implies that at first a person promised something to somebody, and afterwards they broke said promise. This makes pretty much all accusations of treason highly problematic. For example, I hate the country where I happened to be born. I have never promised loyalty to this country’s ruling politicians and oligarchs. Thus I could never “betray” said country.

  7. Jeremy Shaffer says

    “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.”

    In other words, they both agree but the problem is that the first group recognizes the flag and what it represents for the raging toilet fire it is while the other acts like it’s admirable and would really like it if we all pretended along with them.

  8. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    jkrideau and Andreas Avester,
    Sorry to drop a little reality onto your revisionist history, but every politician and soldier and civil servant who served the US of A before the war took an oath uphold and defend the Constitution of the country. By that very document, by taking up arms against the Union, they were traitors.

    In point of fact, there is evidence that the treason began more than a decade before the commencement of hostilities, with then Secretary of Defense Jefferson Davis stockpiling arms and supplies in the south where people could turn them on the Federal government. The US government would have been well within its rights to try and hang most of the Confederate leadership and indeed much of its rank and file.

  9. lumipuna says

    For the love of god, can Southerners please find something else to be proud of?

    AFAIK, there may not be anything that unites all the Southern states and sets them apart from other states, other than the Confederate secession, widespread plantation farming and the late persistence of institutional slavery.

    If this is true, it’s kind of a tautology, since the whole idea of “Southern culture” seems to have been constructed as Confederate propaganda, specifically including the states that participated in the Confederacy. Once the war was lost, Southern racists could always use the same Southern nationalism to rally up resistance whenever Washington tried to enforce Black civil rights in the South.

    That’s how you get people celebrating an ancient political clusterfuck as their “cultural heritage”, dogwhistling racism that may or may not include approval of actual slavery, while not questioning if there’s anything else to Southernness than Confederacy.

  10. says

    @Andreas Avestor:

    The word “traitor” implies that at first a person promised something to somebody, and afterwards they broke said promise. This makes pretty much all accusations of treason highly problematic.

    I certainly would disagree that it would make “all” accusations problematic, but I would agree that it makes it more difficult where a government falls during someone’s lifetime and that person seeks to restore the old rather than capitulating to the new.

    And I can certainly see a number of reasons why you might dislike your nation, but if you joined a movement that ambushed your nation’s armed forces as part of a larger movement to take some or all of the nation’s territory out of the control of the current government, I have no doubt that people would refer to you as a traitor.

    One of the things I think concerns you (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that “traitor” has decidedly negative connotations where, in fact, principled sedition can be a good thing. If someone described Tresckow as “a noble traitor to the Nazi regime” I’d be perfectly fine with that. It would be a betrayal of the Nazi regime to try to assassinate Hitler. It would also, given the regime’s great evil, be entirely possible to become convinced to betray that regime for entirely well-evidenced and noble and principled reasons.

    In short it’s my opinion that it’s possible for an act of treason to be a good thing. I believe that being a traitor has negative connotations, but I don’t believe that an act must be negative in order for it to fit the definition of treason.

    I have no problem saying that the southern people who took up arms against the United states during the civil war were adults (or nearly so) in 1860. They would have been 72 years of age if they were born the year before the constitution was ratified. They would have been dead if they were born in North American pre-colonization. Therefore, they were either immigrants who pledged loyalty to the USA by choice or they loyal to neither of the nations to which they might have been born. This wasn’t at all a situation of remaining loyal to a previous regime. The previous regime was the UK, which had already banned slavery and was looked to with no loyalty by the secessionists.

    Nope, whether immigrants or born to British colonies or born to United States citizenship, the people who led the secession and the people who fought for it were indeed traitors.

    Some people might argue that they were principled traitors like Tresckow, but I don’t think anyone here would be likely to accept that characterization.

  11. says

    @lumipuna:

    AFAIK, there may not be anything that unites all the Southern states and sets them apart from other states, other than the Confederate secession, widespread plantation farming and the late persistence of institutional slavery.

    Well, there is one thing, though honestly it doesn’t speak any better of them than their racist secession movement: the willing consumption of okra as food. :shudder:

  12. unclefrogy says

    well yes of course it is a symbol of southern heritage no one is really arguing that that heritage is one of slavery and white supremacy those opposed to the flag are just spelling it out. That heritage just happens to be against the fundamental principles on which the United States were founded and is still struggling to implement fully.
    uncle frogy

  13. Petal to the Medal says

    I grew up in the deep South in the 50s & 60s. When I saw somebody displaying a Confederate flag, I knew exactly what it meant, & so did everybody else who saw it. It was a symbol of resistance against desegregation. That “heritage not hate” bullshit might fool some people who never lived in the South, but those of us who were there in the mid-20th Century aren’t buying it.

  14. lumipuna says

    I notice Haley didn’t at least use the phrase “Southern heritage”, which seems to erase black people as “Southerners” or “people with Southern ancestry”. Though I guess the Northern/Southern division is normally understood to concern specifically only white people.

    (Naturally, if there’s a major subset of Americans with a truly distinct heritage relating to their ancestral history in the South, it’s African Americans.)

  15. bowdsquared says

    As someone raised in MS in the 70’s-80’s I can personally attest that Nikki Haley is full of shit when she says that the battle flag isn’t a racist flag.

  16. says

    Dear Ms Haley:

    Symbols often have more than one meaning. Consider that for most of its history, the swastika was a symbol of good, justice, and peace. Instead, what you are doing with your defense of the “Stars and Bars” is a two-level failure to communicate.

    (1) You are fundamentally demanding that only the meaning that you infer the speaker had — and, further, only its overt intention, without regard to context — mattered at all. That’s similar to, say, defending old-fashioned “Polack jokes” because the speaker only intends to point out something stupid. The words mean exactly what you want them to mean, nothing more and nothing less, and “glory” really does mean “a good knock-down battle” if that’s what you decide it means. For someone else. After the fact.

    (2) You are refusing to accept the concept of “baggage” — of context. To use a recent example from your most-recent political appointment, consider the “baggage” of historical demands by France that every Secretary-General of the United Nations must speak French. (Which France could get away with because it was a veto-power member of the Security Council.) Just what kind of baggage do you think that had in French-speaking Africa? How about in Latin America? How about in Asia, especially Vietnam? Demanding that someone accept a colonial/imperial symbol or means of communication as the only acceptable means of discourse is just a bit… arrogant. And imperialistic. And unlikely to result in everyone receiving the message that you think it should (and only that message, with nothing else).

    Of course, if you had been paying attention to “diplomacy” in your recent diplomatic posting, you might have an inkling of at least some of this.

  17. says

    I’ve always disliked us Mexican Americans being lumped together with others as Latinos. Recently found out that was started by the French during Emperor Maximillian’s reign, in an attemp to gain influence in Mexico, Central and South America.

  18. lotharloo says

    Nikki Haley is a typical scumbag piece of shit Republican. Just like most Republicans, she used to attack Trump before he got elected, now she’s kissing his boots, angling for VP run in 2020 and presidency at 2024. Fucking scum.

  19. blf says

    The confederacy was all about maintaining slavery. The traitor disagreement is a diversion. The war against the slaveholders / traders was against slaveholding. (Yes, this is complicated by the fact there were several slaveholding Northern States who were excluded from the Emancipation Proclamation.)

  20. stroppy says

    “…That heritage just happens to be against the fundamental principles on which the United States were founded…”

    and human decency.

    All this flag-statue idolatry stuff is about terrorizing uppity folk and poking yankees in the eye, pure and simple. I have to say that my ancestors on the southern side are part of my heritage, and they were damned lucky that Sherman didn’t have the stomach to give them all the hell that they deserved.

    And yeah, having a society built on human suffering and slavery requires an authoritarian system that poisons everything and everybody.

  21. says

    Crip Dyke @#10 and a_ray_in_dilbert_space @#8

    Sorry to drop a little reality onto your revisionist history

    I’m not interested in revisionist American history, because I’m not particularly interested in American history per se. Firstly, that’s not my country; secondly, American history is immensely depressing. A genocide against Native Americans, enslavement of black people, abuse of poor white people, continued abuse of people of color even after the slavery was officially over. Abuse to this day—just as people are finally starting to figure out that stop-and-frisk policy was racist, bigots have already come up with the next excuse how to continue the abuse. And so it goes. Pretty much every figure in American history books was a racist, sexist, and altogether bigoted asshole. I’m not particularly interested in debating about who was slightly less assholish. For example, in the civil war pretty much everybody was a racist piece of shit—after the war it took many more decades for black people to be given at least some rights and equality.

    Anyway, my interest in “traitors” is general; it’s not specifically tied to USA history.

    First problem—what is a legitimate country? Pretty much all the international borders were drawn as a result of warfare. A political entity established through brute force without the consent of the governed cannot be legitimate.

    Second problem—the overwhelming majority of countries right now are either totalitarian or authoritarian or at least oligarchies in which the wealthy dictate the laws without the consent of the governed. Actually democratic countries are pretty rare. (I do not consider the USA democratic.)

    Third problem—patriotism/nationalism is nonsensical. The idea that a person should care more about people who live within some imaginary borders is discriminatory and harmful. Personally, I refuse to associate myself with any country and I believe that I don’t owe loyalty to any particular political regime. Instead my loyalty and concern is about humanity as a whole and also all the other sentient creatures (non-human animals) on this planet to a slightly lesser degree.

    Thus I believe that treason is impossible or at least highly problematic. The whole notion of “treason” is a remnant from the old days back when King Thag murdered the previous king, figured out that he doesn’t want somebody else to kill him, and so he declared that any attempts to overthrow his rule are “treason.” The overall attitude being, “I have power now, therefore I will declare as crimes all attempts to overthrow me.” The mere fact that some person was unlucky to be born in some shithole does not mean that therefore they must love King Thag or owe him loyalty.

    every politician and soldier and civil servant who served the US of A before the war took an oath uphold and defend the Constitution of the country

    The word “every” in this sentence guarantees that these oaths weren’t voluntary but mandatory. Whenever some person is coerced into saying some words, those words shouldn’t be taken seriously. Confessions extorted under torture are perceived as invalid, because anybody will say absolutely anything while tortured. Similarly, mandatory oaths also shouldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, I’m am not equating confessions under torture with the standard oaths people have to say before they are allowed to start working in some position. After all, torture is much worse than being told, “Say these words or else we won’t allow you to get this job.” But it’s still coercion. “But you promised to do {whatever},” is a weak argument in situations where the other person can reply with, “You coerced me into uttering these words.”

    Oaths are especially problematic in situations where a person has no alternative options. For example, if the only job they can get requires some oath. Besides, it’s not like people can easily leave a country they dislike. All the land on this planet is already divided between countries, most of whom are shitty. Leaving one shitty country simply means going to another almost just as bad country. Never mind that countless people cannot possibly leave their nasty countries because of financial or practical reasons. And some are outright refused entry in other countries, because they have dark skin and therefore some racists won’t want to give them a refugee status.

    Conveniently, personally I was never coerced into making any oaths to my shithole’s ruling regime. I never tried to apply to any jobs where cringe-worthy oaths are mandatory.

    At the end, whoever wins some war declares that all people who opposed the winning side are “traitors.” That sure sounds legitimate.

    One of the things I think concerns you (and please correct me if I’m wrong) is that “traitor” has decidedly negative connotations where, in fact, principled sedition can be a good thing. If someone described Tresckow as “a noble traitor to the Nazi regime” I’d be perfectly fine with that.

    If the word “treason” didn’t have such strong negative connotations and if it wasn’t considered a crime, I wouldn’t object to a continued usage of this word as much as I do.

    By the way, I’m perfectly fine with saying that an attempt to overthrow an elected government and replace it with a dictatorship is a crime. I’m also fine with saying that enslaving other people is a crime. I just won’t call said crimes “treason.”

  22. monad says

    The south has a lot of heritage to be celebrate. For instance people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were from there, and could make for some lovely statues.

  23. chrislawson says

    Monad@22–

    We can also add Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Geronimo, Helen Keller, Georgia O’Keeffe (not born a Southerner but made a huge contribution to its art), Mark Twain, Louis Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, H.L. Mencken, Edgar Allen Poe, Katherine Anne Porter, William Styron, Flannery O’Connor, Zora Neale Hurston, and so on and so on. There is no shortage of Southern heritage worth celebrating.

    Modern conservatives of course reject these ‘heroes’ (many of them were highly flawed people, but they all made major contributions to their culture) in favour of Confederate war criminals who seceded to keep slavery legal. And if they really cared about promoting Southern ‘heritage’, then why were they so upset at Harriet Tubman being put on American bills?

  24. yaque says

    “Treason never prospers, But what is the Reason?
    If Treason doth prosper, None dare call it Treason!”

  25. Owlmirror says

    On another forum, someone pointed out that Nikki Hailey was awarded Asshole of the Day in 2014 for very different purblind nonsense about the flag:

    During the Tuesday night [2014-10-13] gubernatorial debate Democratic candidate state Sen. Vincent Sheheen called for the state government to no longer display the Confederate flag, noting that many young people leave South Carolina “all too often.”

    Haley retorted by claiming that the Confederate flag has not kept companies from coming to the state.

    “What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag,” she said.

    Rich people don’t care, so it’s not important.

  26. dianne says

    @21: The word “every” in this sentence guarantees that these oaths weren’t voluntary but mandatory. Whenever some person is coerced into saying some words, those words shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    Every politician, civil servant, or soldier is required to take an oath promising to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. However, with the partial exception of soldiers, no one is required to place themselves in a position that requires them to take that oath. Civil servants and politicians are entirely free to walk away if they feel that it is not acceptable to them to take this oath. So I don’t think it can be considered coercive to any but drafted soldiers. Graduates of West Point, for example, are not draftees.

  27. dianne says

    As an ex-southerner, I consider the Civil War and related issues to be part of the heritage of the area in the same way that I consider some of my Trump supporting relatives to be family: Yes, it’s true and I’m sorry but there’s nothing much I can do about it*. Now can we please talk about something else?”

    Other southerners worth celebrating: Molly Ivins, EE Just…odd how many of them are women, minorities, or both.

    *”Nothing I can do about it” refers only to the past. I am entirely ready to consider, say, reparations or other means of reducing the damage currently being experienced by minorities.

  28. monad says

    @23 chrislawson: I thought Harriet Tubman was from Maryland, which despite slavery did not secede and so isn’t actually the “south”. But yes to your and many other examples.

  29. says

    dianne @#26

    Both my parents swore undying loyalty to the Soviet Union. They had to. Or else.

    In late 1980ties, as the Soviet Union started to crumble, they did everything they could in order to contribute to the destruction of the Soviet Union.

    You appear blissfully ignorant about how life works in some places. Nobody is coerced? Yeah right. Hahaha.

  30. says

    dianne @#26

    By the way, you can do a quick Google search for “Pledge of Allegiance public schools.” How is that non-coercive? It’s not just totalitarian countries that force their citizens to utter bullshit words and promise all sorts of crap.
    Never mind that throughout history the overwhelming majority of soldiers were conscripts. How was that non-coercive?

  31. says

    What’s the difference between the words and actions of white supremacists with “heritage” and Osama bin Laden’s hermitage? Besides the letter “M”, not much.

  32. patricklinnen says

    Andreas Avester @ 29; do you often compare apples to oranges?

    Read diane’s post at 26 again, with comprehension this time. Not just imagining your words into her post.

  33. lumipuna says

    IIRC, here in Finland soldiers in conscript training can opt out of the oath but I don’t think that makes them any less legally obligated in soldier’s duty. I don’t see it making a moral difference either. I think oaths are just a ritual for mild brainwashing, and often a means of loyalty testing.

    I prefer to not use the word “treason” outside legal context because it seems unnecessary, and common language users tends to use it to specifically dissmiss their political opponents, or people who lost a war.

  34. dianne says

    @Andreas: I’m sorry your family had that experience. I agree that the Soviet Union in the 1970s was coercive with respect to loyalty oaths. I’ll also agree that the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools has a coercive element. However, I don’t think either of these examples is relevant. There are plenty of jobs in the US that do not involve government service or making any promises more binding than agreeing to give two weeks notice before quitting. And I’d be extremely surprised if anyone argued that someone could be convicted of treason based on their having said the PoA as a child.

    I don’t know for certain whether there was a draft in the US prior to the Civil War. There certainly was one once it started and I would agree that the draftees were coerced into their oath and would not hold them morally responsible if they deserted. But the former US politicians who formed the Confederate government and the former US military officers who were the Confederate military leadership were not draftees. They had many career choices that did not involve an oath to the US constitution. Their oaths were taken freely and broken deliberately.

  35. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    Tim Wise, who is actually a Southerner, points out something critical every time this bullshit gets brought up. Why is the heritage only the flag? Why not the heritage of white abolitionists, or Frederick Douglass, or slave rebellions? Why not celebrate John Brown? Nll

    The answer is simple: the CHOICE, conscious or not, is to embrace not heritage per se but rather white supremacist heritage.

  36. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Monad,
    Maryland was indeed a Union state, but that was more because federal troops held it in than because of any abolitionist or pro-Union sentiment. Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon line. Lincoln was nearly assassinated before his inauguration as his train passed through Baltimore, and B’more was a center of Confederate espionage and resistance to the draft throughout the war. Even today, outside of Baltimore and the burbs of DC, the culture is decidedly southern.

    In the US, there is no draft, so no one is compelled to take an oath to defend the Constitution. And I would emphasize that the oath is to defend the Constitution, not any particular government under that document. Despite what many have asserted, one is not even compelled to recite the Pledge of Alegiance, although it takes courage to refuse.

    Treason is the only crime that is defined in the US Constitution. Cognizant of the rebel origins of the Nation, the definition is extremely narrow. Yet, even by that narrow definition, it is beyond question that the Confederate leadership were guilty of Treason, beginning perhaps as early as 1847.

  37. brightmoon says

    I’ve got southern relatives. Not one of has that flag anywhere near or on their property

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