Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Confederate Flag

The South Carolina newspaper, The Post and Courier, has reported yet another politicians attempt to seek the removal of the Confederate flag, this time from the campus of the private military institution of higher learning, the Citadel. In the interests of full disclosure, I am an American of both Anglo-Celtic and West African heritage, whose family were on these shores under early colonial rule and the Union Jack. My ancestors belonged both to an illustrious Virginia family and their slaves on my maternal line, and a yeoman South Carolina farmer who illegally married a woman of color. South Carolina is an interesting State throughout American history. Since Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, and John Calhoun. Its delegate to the Continental Congress did not support Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Charles Pinckney almost single-handedly ensured that slavery would continue to exist within the Constitution of the United States of America, by threatening to leave the Convention if South Carolina's demands were not met. John Calhoun would introduce the theory of nullification, which provided the political philosophical foundation that the South utilized in later seceding from the United States. South Carolina, for those unfamiliar, was the first state to secede in 1860. South Carolina's State militia fire the first shots of the American Civil War at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina provided the armies of the Confederate States of America with a very large number of line officers and generals. These men, no matter how misguided we now look upon their motives, were Americans who fought under the Confederate flag. If we are to believe the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens that: 

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition;

Then there can no question that for the Citadel alumni, the Civil War was about their maintaining a racist ideology which justified the enslavement of their fellow man, who happened to have African blood. Where does this leave those of us who are destined to carry and transmit this history to future generations of Americans?

I think this is heritage, actually. We were just as enslaved, just as discriminated against, just as lynched, under the American flag as we were under the Confederate. The Civil War represents a true crisis in existentialism for we, The People of the United States of America. We cannot erase Confederate flag from our American heritage, for just like the Stars and Stripes, both are representative of us as a People. Our nation has committed sins, enacting policies that enslaved some people and eradicating others. How many Native American tribes look to the Stars and Stripes as a symbol of virtue, when the 7th U.S. Cavalry-an all-black regiment-forcibly removed them from their lands, starved their families, and murdered their wives and children? Is this not an accurate depiction of American history? Did this not transpire under the banner of the Stars and Stripes?

We, as Americans, in particular those of us amongst the People of color must begin to allow our fellow white brothers and sisters their right to think differently than do we. This does not mean that we should justify racism or forgive any notions that they hold which are closer to Stephens' belief than Jefferson's declaration. However, we cannot disabuse them of their pride in being white or Southern. These should not been seen as marks of shame. There has been a very dangerous precedent established in disregarding the ideas of white men, purely because they are white men. At the same time, whites must continue to assure their belief in equality of mankind, recognizing that they hold preferential treatment within American institutions, and fight for the Spirit of '76 in our contemporary times. 

History and the political baggage it carries to the living generation have been utilized to divide people, staining the notions of justice and equality, which are some of the Natural Rights of all Mankind. Those who have been divided must engage in a sublime dialectical exchange, by which symbols can be seen as they deserve. The Southern white man who is proud that his great-grandfather fought in Stonewall's Brigade at the Battle of First Bull Run is not a pariah for loving the Confederate flag. He is, however, a man to be despised if he allows the history and political theory of the Confederate States of America to dictate his worldview in our 21st century. The African-American who is proud of Malcolm X, is not a pariah when finding wisdom in some statements made during incredibly racist speeches. It is while a member of the fringe group, the Nation of Islam, that Malcolm's asked African-Americans the all important question of who taught them to hate themselves, which was followed by racist statements in relation to our white brothers and sisters. And yet, just like the Southern white man, the black man has no right to utilize that version of African-American history to dictate his treatment of white people. In short, white people are not innately evil, as Malcolm preached for most of his time in the public sphere. While it is true that he would later recant all of his racist statements upon returning from the Hajj, the stain of his words remain. No man of color has a right to believe that the white man is the devil, for it is Objective Truth that dictates the equality of the white and the black.

The flags of the United States of America and the Confederate States of America are each representative of the history and heritage of the nation. Nothing can alter that, and there is no shame in flying the Confederate flag at a South Carolina military college whose alumni fought for the South. Their lives provide their descendants about what happens when we cannot compromise. Their lives, the battles, the literature, and the 600,000 dead should compel the Tea Party and the Progressive Democrats of what happens when we become too entrenched in our beliefs, arrogantly and erroneously believing that our individual perspective is the only perspective. Let the flags fly as reminders of the devastation Americans can commit against other Americans, simply because we become too foolish to discover a compromised path to justice and the Spirit of '76. Let us utilize their mistakes, learn from them, honor our Civil War fallen, and be better Americans because of the history of these two flags.

-Preston Henry Andrew Scott (aka Isma'il ibn Bilal)

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