Historian debunks the Confederate Flag debate: it’s not racism vs. heritage, but racist heritage

The South Carolina and American flags fly at half mast as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument June 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina (AFP Photo/Sean Rayford)
The South Carolina and American flags fly at half mast as the Confederate flag unfurls below at the Confederate Monument June 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina (AFP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Early Saturday filmmaker and activist Bree Newsome scaled the poll in front of the South Carolina Statehouse and took down the Confederate Flag that continues to fly. But don’t worry guys: within the hour, the Flag had been replaced, just in time for an 11AM White Supremacist rally, and Newsome was arrested.

The flag continues to fly despite the calls for its removal, in light of the Charleston shooting, from Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and a group of the state’s top lawmakers.  But the the move requires approval by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the South Carolina Legislature.

In a statement Newsome said, “It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”

And yet, the idea that the Confederate Flag represents anything but racism persists. Historian Claire Potter, a professor at the New School, joined me on my new radio show and she spoke about the false dichotomy, which presents the flag as a symbol of (A) racism or (B) heritage. She referred to a New York Times article which read,

… many say it is a symbol of the South’s heritage, culture and military pride and can be displayed without any sense of racism.

Does displaying the flag show historic appreciation, or is it a symbol of a reviled era, that breeds racism and should not be officially approved?

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