Historical context should not be forgotten

Rachel Belson, Contributing Writer

Before debating whether the Confederate flag should be removed or allowed to fly, we must first look at the importance of the flag through a historical perspective.  Did you know that the flag considered to be the Confederate flag today was not the original Confederate flag?

The first Confederate flag looked similar to the first U.S. flag.  This Confederate flag contained three horizontal stripes with a blue top left corner containing seven stars in a circle. The flag that citizens have come to know as the Confederate flag was not adopted until after the battle at Manassas in 1861.

When it was adopted, it was given the title of a battle flag, which greatly differs from a national flag.  A battle flag is solely used in war time and has no meaning outside of war.

However, a national flag has meaning all the time, whether in war or not.  The battle flag that citizens are debating over today consist of a square blue St. Andrew’s cross with 13 white stars (representing the 11 Confederate states plus Kentucky and Missouri) on a red background.

Many citizens believe that the war began due to slavery.  What both sides were fighting over was the slavery in the territories: the Arizona, New Mexico and other Union and Confederate territories.  Both the North and South agreed on white supremacy. African-Americans were considered to be lesser people on both sides.   

At the time of the war, abolition was not successful in the North. Northerners solely wanted slavery removed from the territories so Caucasians would not have to compete with African-Americans for labor.  According to David Sarratt from the American Studies Department at the University of Virginia, Southerners believed slavery was far worse in the North because Northerners did not care for their slaves like the Southerners did.

If the North and South both agreed on white supremacy, then why do we honor the North’s flag, which is the American flag we have today, but argue that the South’s flag stands for racism?  The war was not fought to end slavery; it was fought to give better advantages to Caucasians.

Neither flag should be today acknowledged as representative of  slavery.  The North’s flag is the flag we use today to represent our nation. The South was actually considered as a different nation from the North, having its own leaders. It had to adopt a new flag to represent its nation.

The Confederate flag should be looked upon as a representation of the South in its time of being a separate nation from the North.  This flag today is not used for white supremacy or fighting for slavery. It is now a symbol of pride for those people who reside in the South.  It is a piece of history.  History, whether good or bad, should never be omitted from our memories.  I do, however, believe that the American flag should always be flown above the Confederate flag, or any flag, in any context. But the Confederate flag should not be viewed as a symbol of racism.