The attack on Southern culture continues as another organization removes the Confederate flag from public view. The University of Mississippi has lowered the state flag from its Oxford campus because it contains the Confederate battle emblem, which some say is a painful reminder of slavery and segregation.
After the student senate, the faculty senate, and other groups such as the NAACP adopted a student-led resolution calling for removing the banner from campus, Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks ordered the flag to be taken away and sent to the university’s archives.
“As Mississippi’s flagship university, we have a deep love and respect for our state,” Stocks said in a statement. “Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued.”
What’s not welcomed and valued any longer are Southern traditions and anything that is deemed “offensive.” The Mississippi flag has had the Confederate battle emblem in the upper left corner since 1894, and in 2001 residents of Mississippi chose to keep the flag during a statewide vote. But that didn’t matter to the students corralled by the NAACP during a campus rally on October 16. They deem the flag racist and offensive, so it must be racist and offensive, and despite what the rest of the people in the state think, they have demanded its removal—and the university has caved.
The Goal Is to Silence, Not to Free
“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Stocks said in the statement Monday. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”
How long will it be, I wonder, before they drop their “Rebels” mascot? If Ole Miss is going to be consistent, that needs to go as well, don’t you think?
While I have been sensitive in the past to people who say they see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, I know too many blacks down here in the South who aren’t offended by its presence. A little-known fact is that the pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was recently shot and killed in the Charleston church, voted in 2000 during his first term in the South Carolina Senate for H5028, the May 2000 compromise that placed the flag at a specified location on state grounds in Columbia, South Carolina. Obviously, not all blacks oppose the flag and many recognize its historical validity.
If this debate really were about what’s best for all members of our society, I would support removing the flag, but it’s not, not any longer. It’s about perpetuating the politically correct notion that Americans have racism in their DNA and we’re to blame for our racist past. It’s about white guilt. It’s a way of delegitimizing and silencing an integral and valued part of our nation.
Do We Want War or Peace?
Southern culture, with all its merits and flaws, helps make us who we are. The Confederacy represented not just a defense of slavery but loyalty to family, state, religion, and a way of life. Honorable men fought for the South, and Robert E. Lee was twice the man Ulysses S. Grant ever dreamed of being. To dishonor Confederate soldiers because of politically correct sensitivities does a disservice to us all. Our government recognized this when it decided to give Confederate soldiers proper burials as veterans in our national cemetery and later to pay soldiers who served in the Confederate military monthly pensions.
Our nation would do well today to remember the words of President William McKinley when he came to Georgia to participate in a celebration marking the end of the Spanish-American War. His address to the Georgia General Assembly, however, was one about reconciliation over the Civil War:
A nation which cares for its disabled soldiers, as we have always done, will never lack defenders. The national cemeteries for those who fell in battle are proof that the dead as well as the living have our love. What an army of silent sentinels we have, and with what loving care their graves are kept. Every soldier’s grave made during our unfortunate civil war is a tribute to American valor.
And while when those graves were made we differed widely about the future of this government, these differences were long ago settled by the arbitrament of arms—and the time has now come in the evolution of sentiment and feeling under the providence of God, when the spirit of fraternity we should share with you in the care of the graves of the Confederate soldiers.
The cordial feeling now happily existing between the North and the South prompts this gracious act, and if it needed further justification, it is found in the gallant loyalty to the Union and the flag so conspicuously shown in the year just passed by the sons and grandsons of these heroic dead.
If our forefathers who lived closer to the bloodshed that marred our nation’s landscape can evolve and look at the Confederacy and see honor, and if they could give those men their love, we should be able to do the same, with no shame or apologies.
McKinley spoke of cordial feelings and unification, but all we hear today is hatred and division. This is coming, not from those honoring the nobility of the past, but from those who want to revive its hostilities. Since those dark days in our nation, blacks and whites have worked to come together. It has been a struggle and, in individual instances, it is still. But as a nation we have been united, serving our country together, even dying together in wars and conflicts—black man and white standing side-by-side against the enemy, protecting our homeland even to their last breaths.
Will we let the petty politics of division and strife steal that camaraderie from us in the name of tolerance, which isn’t tolerance at all? Will we let those who seek to divide destroy the union we have achieved, or will we stand united against them, honoring our past for what it is—including its valor and its ignominy—and look to the future with the spirit of fraternity fueled by grace that we have gained and shared for so many years?