“Why This Part Of Your Culture?”: A Question About Southern Culture And The Confederate Flag
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for Michael Boggs, a conservative Georgia state judge whom President Obama nominated for a federal judgeship as part of a deal to get Republicans to allow votes on some of his other nominees. (Lesson: Obstructionism works, so keep doing it!) Boggs got grilled by Democrats over some of the votes he took as a state legislator, including one to keep the Confederate stars and bars as part of the Georgia state flag. Which gives me the opportunity to get something off my chest.
Before I do though, it should be noted that there are plenty of white Southerners who wish that their states had long ago put the Confederate flag issue behind them, and agree with us Yankees that it’s a symbol of treason and white supremacy, and not the kind of thing you want to fly over your state house or put on a license plate, as you can in Georgia.
Boggs claimed in his hearing that he was offended by the Confederate flag, but voted for it because that’s what his constituents wanted. In other words, he’s not a racist, just a coward. Fair enough. But to Southerners who say, as some inevitably do, that the Confederate flag in particular, and Confederate fetishism more generally, reflect not support for slavery or white supremacy but merely an honoring of southern “culture,” my question is this: Why this part of your culture?
Because there are a lot of great things about Southern culture. There’s music, and food, and literature, and a hundred other things you can honor and uphold and celebrate. Why spend so much time and effort upholding the one part of your cultural heritage that is about slavery?
Couldn’t you just let that one thing go? To say, we love our culture, and we’re going to continue it and share it with you. But the slavery thing, and the treason against the United States thing? Let’s just put that where it belongs and get on with building a future. We can talk about the Civil War, and seek to understand it in all its complexity. We can teach our kids about it. But we’re not going to put the Confederate flag on our license plates anymore. Would that be so hard?
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 13, 2014