The Confederate Battle Flag is the National Flag of the Southern People

by Richard Patrick Samples
01-19-04

Bigotry Against Confederate Flags

Anti-Southern bigotry is racism against Southerners, especially White Southerners. Stereotyping and scapegoating directed at the South, at Southerners, and at Southern symbols such as the Confederate flags, are all forms of anti-Southern bigotry. Numerous attempts have been made to ban the Confederate Battle Flag, which is the most famous and popular Confederate flag, from various places and to remove it from the designs of the state flags of Georgia and Mississippi. Southern school children have been forbidden to wear clothing and jewelry with Confederate flags on them in their own schools. The flags have been stereotyped as symbols of racism, slavery, segregation, and almost every other immoral thing imaginable. This is ultimately the result of anti-Southern bigotry. Since the Confederate flags are symbols of the South, of the Southern people, and of Southern heritage, Southerners have the fundamental and inalienable human right to use them and display them freely.

The Confederate Battle Flag has become by customary usage the de facto national flag of the Southern people. The attack on the Confederate Battle Flag is actually an attack on the Southern people. The fight over the meaning of the Confederate Battle Flag is a fight over how to define the character of the Southern people. Southerners stridently defend the true meaning of the flag as a symbol of the South, of the Southern people, and of Southern heritage. Persons with anti-Southern sentiments try to redefine its meaning to be that of a symbol of slavery, segregation, treason, or some other evil thing.

The attacks on the Confederate flag are motivated by anti-Southern bigotry. This fight is really about how the Southern people deserve to be treated. It is about their rights as individuals and as a people. It is about whether or not the world will show them the respect that they deserve.

This bigotry against Southerners for merely being Southern is not new, even in the New World. Anti-Southern bigotry parallels anti-Scottish bigotry and anti-Irish bigotry to a remarkable degree. The explanation is simple. Most Southerners are Scotch-Irish-Americans and they still practice the same culture that their ancestors in Scotland and Ulster did centuries ago. Northerners were predominantly English-Americans until after the War Between the States. Northern bigotry against Southerners is almost exactly the same as English bigotry against Scots. Basically, the English and Scots carried their ancient conflict over the Atlantic Ocean into America.

The International Language of Flags

Flags are part of an international language for communicating between peoples of different nations. The use of national flags is an international cultural institution. National flags symbolize nations or peoples. They are a non-verbal name for the given nation or people. They are used by nations to communicate with each other, especially in diplomatic matters. Flags are involved in numerous official ceremonies that show respect between nations. Failure to show the proper respect for another nation’s flag can cause a serious international incident, potentially leading to war.

The official recognition of a flag by a given government is equivalent to that government giving official recognition to the nation that the flag represents. Displaying a flag not yet officially recognized is usually a way of demanding official recognition and all the rights and privileges that go along with it for an oppressed nation. The presence of such a flag creates pressure on the oppressing government to reform its ways. Thus, tyrannical regimes invariably attempt to suppress the display of the flags of the peoples whom they oppress.

The Sections and Sectionalism

Historians have long recognized that certain groups of contiguous states in the American federation are similar in their economy, society, culture, and politics. These groups of states were originally called sections. The sections generally competed with each other politically and quarreled with one another. The phenomenon of the existence of the sections and of the situation of their constant quarrelling with each other is known as sectionalism. Modern scholars prefer to use the terms region and regionalism instead of section and sectionalism because the latter have negative connotations.

The original sections of America were the South, the Northeast, and the Middle Atlantic States. New sections have been added as America expanded and new states were formed. These new sections are the Midwest, the Southwest, the Far West, the Pacific Northwest, and California. Alaska and Hawaii can also be considered to be sections by themselves.

The North and the South have always been different. From the moment of their founding, the North and the South have been rivals in every way. The South, which is roughly equivalent to the Confederate States, has been described variously as either a section or a region or a nation-within-a-nation. In one sense or another, the South is all of these. The North has a long tradition of chauvinism and imperialism that originated with the Puritans. The Puritans were religious fanatics and totalitarians. While modern New Englanders and other Northerners are no longer Puritans, the fanaticism and totalitarianism of the Puritans has remained strong and comprises one aspect of the Yankee character.

The Founding Fathers were perfectly aware of sectionalism and greatly feared that it would break up the young federation, which would lead to the United States being either re-conquered by Great Britain or conquered by some other imperial power. To prevent sectional conflict, the United States Constitution expressly forbids alliances and combinations between states. The Constitution does not even recognize the existence of the sections. Unfortunately, these provisions failed to prevent the sectional rivalry that ultimately led to the War Between the States, which itself might be better called the War Between the Sections.

The South and the North were more proto-nations than mere sections of one greater nation. At the Founding, neither would have probably been a viable nation on its own, but in the decades leading up to the War Between the States each section grow into what were fundamentally two separate nations. Just as the two modern nations of France and Germany had developed out of the medieval Frankish Empire, two American nations had developed out of the original American republic. The South’s secession from the old Union and its pursuit of independence can be seen properly only as the maturation of the South from a section of one nation into a nation in its own right.

5flags.gif

The Five National Flags of the Confederacy

Having developed into a nation, the South naturally sought its own national flag. This search led to the development of the five Confederate flags. The five Confederate flags are all essentially national flags. They symbolize the South, the Southern people, and Southern heritage. When Southerners display them, Southerners are announcing to the world their status a nation and are calling for their rightful name and place among the nations of the earth. To those that wish to deny the South is rightful independence and status as nation among others, the display of Confederate flags is a very serious nuisance and danger.

The Southern Confederacy created one unofficial design and three official designs for a national flag and one design for a flag for military use in their effort to design a national flag for the CSA. It is perhaps ironic that the one flag that was definitely not intended to be a national flag is the one that has become by common usage the de facto national flag of the Southern people. On the other hand, considering the long and distinguished martial tradition of the Southern people which comes from their Scotch-Irish heritage, it is appropriate that a battle flag has become their national flag.

A national flag reflects the national character of a people. The design of the national flag of a people is the definition of the national character of that people by that people to the other peoples of the world. Through the symbolism of their national flag, the Southern people are announcing to the other peoples of the world what their fundamental traits are. For the Southern people, these fundamental traits are their Christian faith, their Scotch-Irish heritage, and their status as a confederacy of free republics.

While there are numerous Confederate flags, there are five Confederate flags that are universally recognized as the flags of the Confederate States of America. These are the Bonnie Blue Flag, the Confederate First National Flag, the Confederate Second National Flag, the Confederate Third National Flag, and the Confederate Battle Flag. Actually, there are two different Confederate Battle Flags. The first, which is square, is the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Second, which is rectangular, is the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. It is this second Confederate Battle Flag that is generally recognized as the Confederate Flag.

The Bonnie Blue Flag has a single white star on a blue field. This flag was used very early in the war by some military units, but it was never officially adopted as the national flag of the Confederacy. Because of this, it is generally regarded as an unofficial national flag of the Confederacy. The white star on a blue background symbolizes a free republic. It is the same symbolism used for the canton of the United States Flag.

The second Confederate Flag is the Confederate First National Flag, which is commonly called the Stars and Bars. Its design is based on the design of the American flag. It has a blue union with a number of white stars representing the number of Confederate States in the Confederacy and three horizontal bars. The top and bottom bars are red and the middle bar is white. Red, white, and blue are the traditional colors of republicanism. The use of these colors in the flags of the Confederacy symbolizes the Southern people’s commitment to a republican form of government.

The third Confederate Flag is the Confederate Battle Flag, which is commonly called the Starry Cross. This is by far the most famous Confederate flag and is often mistakenly thought to be the only Confederate flag. The flag is has a blue St. Andrew’s cross on a white St. Andrew’s cross on a red background. There are thirteen white stars on the blue cross that represent the thirteen states of the Confederacy, to wit: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, and Kentucky. Again, the colors symbolize republicanism. The use of the St. Andrew’s cross acknowledges both the Scotch-Irish heritage and the Christian faith of the South.

The fourth Confederate flag is the Confederate Second National Flag. This flag has the Confederate Battle Flag as its union and the rest of the flag is all white. The white field symbolizes the justness of the Confederate cause, not white supremacy. This flag is commonly called the Stainless Banner and is still one of the most popular of all Confederate flags. Also, because this flag was used to cover General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s casket at his funeral, the Confederate Second National Flag is called the Jackson Flag.

The fifth Confederate flag is the Confederate Third National Flag. This flag has the same basic design as the Confederate Second Nation flag with the addition of a vertical red bar on the right side of the flag. The red bar has no special meaning. It was added to the flag because the Second National Flag was too easily mistaken for the all-white flag of truce on the battlefield. This flag has the distinction of being the only flag that was officially adopted as the national flag of the Confederate States by the Confederate States Government. Therefore, it is the national flag de jure of the Southern people.

Symbols of the South, of the Southern People, and of Southern Heritage

The Confederate flags symbolize the South, the Southern people, and Southern heritage. They do not symbolize any historical event, any social or cultural institution, any philosophical or legal theory, any hate group, any kind of racism, or any other such thing. They merely symbolize a people and a place. As such, the flag belongs to all Southerners regardless of race, color, or ethnicity. The Confederate flags belong to Black Southerners, Hispanic Southerners, and Native American Southerners just as much as they belong to White Southerners.

The notion that the Confederate flags belong only to White Southerners seems to be as much a vestige of segregation as anything else. White Southerners are still shamefully reluctant to share the flags with their fellow Southerners, even those who are very friendly toward them and their cause. Beyond being immoral, this behavior would certainly disappoint the very Confederate veterans and Confederate statesmen who originally designed them and used them as their own. It dishonors the large numbers of black Southerners who fought for the Confederacy as well as the generations of black Southerners who have been excellent citizens of the South even when they were denied full citizenship themselves.

A Symbol of Scotch-Irish-Americans

The design of the Confederate Battle Flag is based on the Scottish Flag. The Scottish flag is a white St. Andrew’s cross on a blue background. This St. Andrew’s cross design is meant to honor the fact that the majority of Southerners are Scotch-Irish-Americans. Scotch-Irish-Americans have a long tradition of fighting for America, even before there was a United States of America. They were extraordinarily supportive of the American Revolution and a very large number of Scotch-Irish-Americans fought in the Revolutionary armies. Scotch-Irish-Americans have always advocated limited government and individual liberty, making them early and natural libertarians. The Scotch-Irish have always been devoutly Christian, socially conservative, and ardently democratic. Led by Scotch-Irish presidents such as Andrew Jackson, Scotch-Irish-Americans have been steadfast advocates of the common man. Thus, the Confederate Battle Flag honors one of America’s most important and influential ethnic groups.

The most common term used to denote Scotch-Irish-Americans is “redneck.” Sadly, it is often used a derogatory epithet. The term “redneck” is an old Scottish term for a Scottish Presbyterian. It originates from the Presbyterians’ practice of wearing pieces of red cloth around their necks to show that they were members of the National Covenant (i.e., the Scottish Presbyterian Church). When one refers to someone as a “redneck”, one is specifically identifying him as a Scotch-Irish-American. When one calls the Confederate Battle Flag a “redneck flag”, one is specifically calling it a Scotch-Irish-American flag. From this, one can quickly see that much anti-Confederate flag sentiment is actually motivated by ethnic racism against Scotch-Irish-Southerners.

Symbols of the Confederate States as a Region

The Confederate flags are symbols of the region defined by the thirteen Confederate States. This is a more restricted region, since the Confederate States do not include the entire South or all ethnically-Southern regions in such states as Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Although the Southern states of Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and Oklahoma are not officially Confederate states, the people of these states still routinely use them to symbolize their Southern heritage.

The Slavery Stereotype

One major aspect of anti-Southern bigotry is the scapegoating of Southerners for slavery. Even though slavery was a ubiquitous institution in the New World and Southern slaves amounted to only about six percent of the total slave population in the New World, Southerners are still routinely blamed for all slavery in the New World. As part of this scapegoating, the Confederate flags are stereotyped as being symbols of slavery. They are not. They are the nothing more and nothing less than symbols of the South, of the Southern people, and of Southern heritage. They do not symbolize slavery or any other institution of any kind.

A common myth is that the South fought for independence from the old Union in order to preserve slavery and that the North fought to end slavery. This is what can be called the Great Crusade Myth. It originated as Northern war propaganda sometime in the middle of the War for Southern Independence. It is wholly false. The South fought for self-determination in regard to slavery and in regard to every other aspect of its society and economy. The South believed that the North had no right to meddle in its affairs and that it was completely capable of eradicating any social injustices, including slavery, on its own. Furthermore, the majority of Southerners favored a moderate and reasonable method of ending slavery that was based on gradual emancipation and on the education and training of slaves to be free men before they were emancipated. In a way, the South wanted to maintain its control over the emancipation process and to preserve slavery temporarily so that it could implement a program of gradual emancipation. The South had already begun this process. In fact, the South had already freed so many slaves by this method that there were more free blacks in the South than in the North in 1861. Another point to recognize is that the South believed that emancipation should occur through the process of manumission, whereby the slave owners voluntarily freed their own slaves.

The Segregation Stereotype

Due to the fact that some Southern states began to fly the Confederate Battle Flag over their statehouses as a protest against federally-forced integration, the Confederate flags have been stereotyped as symbols of segregation. Some also stereotype them as symbols of states’ rights. To add to the confusion, some states in the 1960s began flying the Confederate Battle Flag over their statehouse for the official reason of commemorating the centennial of the War Between the States. Also, the State of Georgia apparently changed its state flag’s design in order to honor its own Confederate veterans. Both of these acts are misrepresented by the anti-flag movement as acts that were meant to endorse segregation. An honest investigation into the facts, however, shows that the Southern states had many and various reasons for flying the Confederate Battle Flag above their statehouse. The Confederate flags are not the symbols of either segregation or states’ rights. They are the symbols of the South, of the Southern people, and of Southern heritage.

The Racism Stereotype

The Confederate flags, especially the Confederate Battle Flag, have been misused by many individuals and groups. They have been wrongly used by various white racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. They have been stereotyped as symbols both of slavery and segregation. Because of all this, the Confederate flags are commonly stereotyped as symbols of racism in general and of white supremacy in particular. The Confederate flags are not symbols of racism. They are symbols of the South, of the Southern people, and of Southern heritage. Furthermore, they symbolize all Southerners regardless of race or ethnicity.

Southern Heritage Rights Related to the Confederate Flags

Southerners, as all peoples do, possess certain human rights that pertain to the practice of their heritage. These are known as heritage rights. Southerners have the right to have their own symbols and to define what those symbols mean. This includes the Confederate flags. While ignorance by some and misuse by others lead to misconceptions about the meaning of these Southern symbols, they do not in anyway change their true meanings. It is a clear violation of the human rights of Southerners to deny them in any way the right to display or otherwise use the Confederate flags as symbols of their Southern heritage.

Offended Out of Ignorance or Bigotry

Often persons will claim to be “offended” by the Confederate flags. This “offense” results either from ignorance of the flags true meanings or from anti-Southern bigotry and cannot be legitimately considered true offense. Any “offense” that results from simple ignorance is very understandable, considering the way in which the flags have been misused and stereotyped. This problem should be resolved by teaching the “offended” person the true meaning of the flags and by working to stop any misuse of the flag. Any “offense” that results from anti-Southern bigotry is more difficult to resolve. To solve this problem, one must combat the anti-Southern bigotry that is the root source of the problem. Unfortunately, anti-Southern bigotry is deeply entrenched in American society and is very difficult to fight, especially among the black population. One must strongly make the point that to be “offended” by a symbol of another racial or ethnic group is racist and should not happen. One should emphasize that anti-Southern bigotry is a form of racism and that the stereotyping of the Confederate flags as symbols of slavery, segregation, or racism is wrong. The state the case in a different way, this kind of “offense” is really a kind of intolerance and should be treated as such.

Special Meanings of the Confederate Battle Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag has acquired certain special meanings to different peoples. The various negative stereotypes of it being a symbol of slavery, segregation, or White supremacy have already been discussed and shown to be wrong. These other meanings are generally positive and may be considered the flag’s connotative, or special, meanings.

The Confederate Battle Flag is considered by many to be a symbol or resistance to tyranny, especially centralized, imperialistic tyranny, such as that practiced by the Soviet Union. In the Eastern European countries that were under the Soviet Union’s imperial domination, the Confederate Battle Flag was used extensively as a symbol of resistance to Soviet Communism. Because of this connotation and the fact that the flag includes Christian symbolism in the form of a cross, the Black Christians of Sudan use this flag to protest their oppression by the Muslim majority of Sudan. In Sudan, Black Christians are routinely enslaved and mistreated for simply being Christian or for opposing the Muslim-controlled government. So, ironically, the Confederate Battle Flag is being used as a symbol of the liberation of Black Africans from slavery in Africa, while some misguided persons still mistakenly consider it the symbol of Black slavery in America.

Southerners still must constantly defend themselves and their ancestors over their ancestors’ motives for secession. Southerners have always insisted on their right to independence and self-determination. They reject any notion that they need the North or any other foreign power to force them to eradicate social injustices in their state. Because of these strongly held beliefs, Southerners have always resisted any attempts by the North to dominate the South. They have always feared and resisted Northern sectional imperialism. Ultimately, this resistance to imperial domination by the North led the South to secede from the United States Federation of 1787 and to pursue their own independence and self-determination in the newly formed Confederate States of America. For Southerners, the Confederate Battle Flag is more than their sectional, regional, or even national flag. It is a symbol of their right to independence and self-determination and a symbol of their resistance to tyranny by the North via the United States Federal Government.


Conclusion

The Confederate flags symbolize the South, the Southern people, and Southern heritage. They do not symbolize any historical event, any social or cultural institution, any philosophical or legal theory, any hate group, any kind of racism, or any other such thing. They merely symbolize a people and a place. As such, the flag belongs to all Southerners regardless of race, color, or ethnicity. The Confederate flags belong to Black Southerners, Hispanic Southerners, and Native American Southerners just as much as they belong to White Southerners. Deo Vindice.

Richard Patrick Samples

19 January 2004

Tuscaloosa, Alabama


Copyright © 2004 by Richard Patrick Samples

All Rights Reserved




RoA Icon
[Home]
[FAC Archives]