In the wake of the murders at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, many are talking about the murderer's use of the Confederate flag and what it means. I vividly remember in Middle School learning about the Civil War and having my teacher ask, "What were the two issues leading the South to succeed from the Union?"
The first answer was easy, "slavery" rang out from several voices.
The second reason came slower
"States rights" I gave the answer.
My Dad was a huge history buff and I had already watched the PBS special on the Civil War so I knew the right answer. But my answer was not complete. Because if we call "states rights" a second reason for succession on its own then we are not correct. The states wanted the right to regulate slavery. So states rights and slavery are in reality the same cause. People like to use "states rights" as a reason for upholding the confederate flag and to say that succession was ok, in part. But it was wholly wrong. The states wanted the right to enslave human beings. The states wanted the right to declare black people as property. The states wanted the right to discriminate.
Dylan Roof was inspired by the Confederate flag and the cause of the Confederacy -- a cause that led to violence and killing 150 years ago and led him to murder a week ago. The reasoning then and now is the same: black people are less than white people and the Southern heritage of enslavement is justification for violence toward blacks and whites who oppose discrimination. Roof wanted another Civil War, a "race war" he said, for that was the cause of the Civil War.
Don't believe me??
How about reading the words of the southern states themselves in their Declaration of Causes of Seceding States?
Georgia's Declaration of Cause for Succession January 29, 1861:
For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property,
Missisippi's Declaration of Cause for Succession adopted Dec 1860:
In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.
Texas' Declaration of Cause for Succession Feb 2, 1861
Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time.
The states themselves made it clear what they wanted the right to regulate: slavery. The reason for the Civil War was slaver and the states' right to have slavery. Nothing more or less. The confederate flag is a flag of treason. A flag of oppression and injustice. There is no reason to display or honor a flag of division, treason and racism.
The flag was resurrected because of civil rights and desegregation. The flag has been, and always will represent rebellion against equality, justice and progress. It is used by the KKK and white supremacist groups along with the Nazi Swastika - but no one would support the flying of a swastika at our state capitals.
When I see a Confederate flag I am personally offended and scared. Because for me that flag represents the desire of some to enslave, hurt and kill my children. That is the flag of lynching, of beating and hurting people I love. Please don't fly it, please don't excuse it. Please confront those who hold onto it with the facts.