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Symbols Of Pain: Does The Confederate Flag Need To Be Removed From The South?

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Image Credit: BBC.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the debate below are of the authors’ and are not views expressed by The Thrill Society and its management.

On June 17, 2015, a scruffy barely-adult with a floppy mop of blonde hair entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, near the banks of North Charleston, South Carolina.

In his hands was a .45 calibre that he aimed at 10 attendees. Nine were murdered. Only one survived.

The man behind the mop is one Dylan Roof, a self-proclaimed “Last Rhodesian” and defender of white supremacy.

On his site, The Last Rhodesian, Roof published a manifesto which outlined the reasons for his stance against Blacks, Jews, Hispanics and East Asians.

According to his manifesto, African Americans are the “biggest problem for the United States”. “They” are “stupid and violent” and “view everything through a racial lens.”

His wishes were to have a history in which “every white person had an ancestor who owned slaves,” that every “n****** (was) treated terribly throughout history by whites” because the white population of America, as claimed by Roof, are “superior.”

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 Pictured: Dylan Roof

His reason for taking arms, as written in his manifesto, was borne out of an obligation to maintain the “good of society.” That is, the ratio of “whites to blacks.”

Along with the manifesto, the 21 year-old also published a series of photographs that depicted an abhorrence towards the flag of the United States, a love for guns and an even bigger love for the old Confederate flag – or rather its battle issue.

Due to all this, the massacre was no longer a crime but a hate crime and, as a symbol adored by the perpetrator, the Confederate flag came under fire.

Since then, civic leaders have urged for the removal of the flag in front of South Carolina’s state capitol. Alabama held a flag removal ceremony. A procession of retailers, from Walmart to eBay, have discontinued any items associated with the Stars and Bars. Even the infamous Dodge Charger from the TV favorite, The Dukes of Hazard, is set to get a makeover that will remove the Confederate flag from its roof.

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Image Credit: gadgetshowprizes.com

However, is the flag itself a “symbol of hate” as depicted by those who wish to see its extinction?

In A Thrill Society first, two bloggers will be pitted against each other to defend or dismiss the Confederate flag.

In the red corner, we have Stumbling Otis, TTS’s resident drunk philosopher, teller of tummy-tickling tales, content advisor, talent scout, and conduit to powers grander than most would know—which is a fancy way of saying that he’s a sarcastic smart ass that is equipped for the challenge presented to him today.

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In the blue corner, meet Wild Child Of Style, also known as The General. With an extensive history of activism, the Wild Child believes that, while the flag did not insight the crime, its history and appearance at many race issues, should be reason enough to be removed from institutional/governmental buildings.

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The first issue on the agenda will be claims that the flag in not a symbol of hate but a symbol of the history and heritage of the southern states….

ROUND ONE: HERITAGE OR HATE?

STUMBLING OTIS:

First I’d like to state that I’m drunk, thank you! Second, I’m not a bigot, you’re welcome. Third, hang on, I need to top up my glass before I wax philosophical.

Symbols have power, this I will not deny, but a symbol is only a symbol and not an act. Symbols and icons, totems, talismans, idols, zemis, amulets, images and charms. Each is only a brand name representing those of a legion of followers and each is only as powerful as the wearer.

For example, the Wan and the Swastika.

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Tell me, if symbols rule the mind of the wearer then why is an ancient symbol of good luck and auspiciousness derived of Sanskrit and well documented before European pre-history, is most notably associated with the Holocaust and the Nazi horrific fuckery of the Jews???

Kooks repurpose shit. That’s what kooks do.

Symbols are like statistics, they can be bent to fit the meaning of those welding the flag du jour. I could go on….

WILD CHILD OF STYLE:

Oh, please go on! Especially where you prove Godwin correct in his theory that any discussion of atrocity, hate or other is reduced to Hitler and the Nazis. You mentioned the “N” word. You lose, Otis.

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As far as symbols are concerned, no, they do not insight violence (unless, of course, the flag itself is seen by someone who feels so strongly against it that they feel compelled to use violence to put across their point). So, I have to agree with you there.

In this context, Dylan Roof did not walk in to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church with an intent to kill in the name of a flag. The flag itself did not insight violence BUT the flag itself can be a symbol of violence to many.

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A member of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan waves the Confederate flag during a klan rally on the steps of the Warrick County courthouse in Boonville, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 17, 1998. (AP Photo/Evansville Press, Jonna Spelbring) Image Credit: politico.com

At every mention of the right to brandish the Confederate flag, I hear the defense that it is a nod to “heritage” but let’s take a look at that heritage shall we?

The various flags of the Confederacy may differ in appearance but they were all borne out of the same idea: to differentiate the southern states from the north.

Why differentiate? The multitude of reasons that led to a civil war: the south feeling it was unevenly represented in congress. A territory who then desired to annex the north due to abolition. Abolition that would cost the state much in Cotton King candy, should slaves be paid a wage. There’s your heritage.

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Nowadays, the south is not annexed from the north. In fact it is part of the patchwork known as the UNITED states. Slavery is also stamped out. Thus, the flag has no purpose. Unless its purpose is to remind people of the reasons the civil war was borne out of.

For that reason, it should not be displayed on institutional/governmental buildings.

However, if Billy Bob wants to display it in his front yard and flash it on the 4th of July with all his other Confederate buddies, then by all means do so but be prepared for people to comment. Freedom of speech. Freedom of action.

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Image Credit: lafozi.com

STUMBLING OTIS:

Wait, wait, wait. Not so fast, little sis! Am I to glean that, at base, your sole argument about removing the Confederate flag isn’t really driven by the fact that the ol’ Stars and Bars is deeply offensive to a wide swath of our population and acts as a daily reminder of their subjugation and enslavement? It should be removed because it is obsolete?

The south lost so put their flag in the rubbish bin because loser flags don’t deserve to fly. Or, maybe use it to wrap up the Duggar Family’s reality TV career and bury them both deep along with 8-tracks, the carburetor and the pre-printed hats never worn by every losing team in Super Bowl history.

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I’m surprised that a genuine wild child of the millennial media generation wouldn’t belabor the moral right! That’s what the activist generation does, isn’t it? Build apps to share their entitled, Apple-based moral platform from.

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But no, nary a mention of the suffering, the servitude, the abduction, the rape, murder…

Something that could be legitimately referred to as a Holocaust of the African populous during the booming pre-civil war American Triangle Trade. However, my dear little General, you DID use the standard go to for all complex, convoluted, no right answer problems associated with African-Americans – slavery, You used the “S” word so YOU LOSE, Wild Child!

WILD CHILD OF STYLE:

And he builds the strongest of straw men! By “violence” the aforementioned is assumed. By “slavery” the premise is entrenched.

But I can’t argue with the Duggar TV career so…

ROUND TWO: BUT WHAT OF AFRICAN AMERICANS DEFENDING THE FLAG?

WILD CHILD OF STYLE:

I’ve often stumbled on this phenomenon in my quest to understand the meaning of the flag and its importance.

At first I assumed that it may have been a nod to the African American soldiers who fought in the ranks of the Confederate army. However, that never meshed well with me, given that there was a reluctance at first to arm slaves. This was followed by the arming of slaves out of a need for manpower (hence the old argument that “the Confederate states were the first to ALLOW African Americans to join the army”). They may have fought but the Confederate Constitution never granted them freedom.

The other reason, the one I find more believable, is that the flag itself is a symbol of revolt and “not being told what to do” as claimed by Karen Cooper:

She also mentions freedom, though I find that a long stretch. Freedom? She got this from a flag that, to many, symbolizes subjugation?

I have no right to tell people what they can and can’t defend. However, I am with the 61 per cent of the African American population of these states that want the flag removed from state institutions.

Hey, had I had ancestors who faced the scourge of slavery, I wouldn’t want a reminder flapping in the wind either.

STUMBLING OTIS:

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What? I don’t even know what you just said. You line up 100 brothers from Little Rock AR, Flint MI, Baltimore, Montgomery AL, Savannah, Ferguson MI, or in any city south of the Mason/Dixon line and I guarantee you that 61% of them will not understand what the hell you just said about black folk supporting the Confederate flag either.

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Image credit: NYdailynews.com

Remember, statistics are like symbols, they are easily bent to the goals of the user.

I’m getting a drink. Next.

ROUND THREE: ABOLISHING THE FLAG WILL END RACISM:

WILD CHILD: Fine! Then let’s get to another important aspect of this debate. Will removing the flag end racism?

I have a simple answer for that. No. Did removing the Afrikaans flag from institutions in South Africa end segregation? It was a symbol of the apartheid but the flag itself did not end the attitude deeply entrenched in the population of South Africa.

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To end racism an entire overhaul of our constructs and culture is needed and one that won’t happen overnight.

In closing (as the General needs a nana nap and BenGay after going three rounds with this swift-kicker), racism does not begin and end with symbols. However, living under institutions, elected to represent the WHOLE of society, that willfully brandish such a flag is a slap in the face.

Removing it is a step forward to reconciliation.

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COLUMBIA, SC – JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

STUMBLING OTIS:

Hmmm. Well NO it won’t, which is exactly my point.

The flag is nothing but a convenient symbol to slaughter. The flag itself didn’t load Roof’s gun.

I love your sentence above, the most poignant of this conversation: “Removing it is a step forward to reconciliation”. I agree. Its removal is an olive branch to black America,100 years too late. I’m sure they appreciate that a church full of folks had to be murdered to achieve it.

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But I can’t help feel that all that energy we’re utilizing to take it down could have been better allocated.

Think of what betterments could have been achieved if all that maelstrom over the flag was, instead, dedicated to healthy breakfast programs in poor neighbourhoods, or Big Brother-type programs to provide guidance to young black boys and girls, or to generate jobs in the hardest neighborhoods throughout the south.

Next week after Bieber OD’s, or a hurricane wipes out Costa Rica, or Kim K’s left tit shows on the Jimmy Fallon Show, the collective attention will shift but those little kids will still be hungry and there will still be more sentenced jail time than educational hours in the “hood” and nothing will change.

I don’t like the Confederate flag. I also think it’s a slap in the face of anyone who opposes slavery. I think it does represent hate, but maybe we all need a few more slaps in the face to help remember how much work is left to do.

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Image credit: dw.com

Maybe instead of removing it we should embrace the goddamn thing and make it force our hand to action instead of enjoying that fleeting glow of having cared just a little.

CONCLUSION:

We’ve decided to hand the debate over to you! Do you think, like sister Wild Child, that the flag should be removed from the south’s institutions? Or, like brother Stumbling Otis, that the flag should remain and our attention diverted to other issues?

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12 comments

  1. Excellent debate! Honestly I think each state needs to decide this issue. People can have their opinions, but can a Northerner really have any idea about living with this issue?

  2. Some facts. It seems everyone thinks slavery was the main issue during the Civil War. This is not true. Only 1%, even this small percentage is too much, of Southerners owned slaves during the Civil War. Generally speaking only rich, plantation owners could afford slaves. The main issue of the Civil War was taxation. The South felt they were getting over taxed.

  3. GlutenFreeandMe

    First Im glad that you all are not afraid to open a controversial topic and I especially like the fact that you had fresh view and neither side took some extreme perspective. Creative and sincere but light and entertaining writing from both sides. I found this site through Wild Child of Style on Insta, at first I was surprised that she was writing here but the more I see how this site is developing the more Im impressed. Keep up the good work!!

  4. Hi Y’all- Heavy Texas again. I gotta say, you all are crazy. I found this site cuz of Eva Notty but hell if I dont end up talking about femi-nazi and ol Dixie. I might be drive heavy equipment but Im not dumb ya hear, I went to college…. and your wrong little lady. All the boys yelling about this down south may say “heritage” but they really mean “legacy”. Heritage mean you have a right by birth, legacy means you been handed down something. The Stars and Bars isnt heritage, its legacy…. there aint no birthright to it, its history of what we are. Thing is nobody alive today been a slave or owned slaved and even those that have those shared legacies dont know it beyond the school books we both shared as kids. None of it was right, but none of us change what was can we…. history is a mix bag for all folks, black or white, some good some bad. Im white but most folks I know living just as hard as the black folks I done grown up with. South is our shared legacy, we all in it together, good and mostly bad. You take those flags way and feel good but you never showing up to pay no ones power bill. That fella Otis got one thing right, nothing changing down in Dixie but thanks for trying.

  5. I sympathise with the writers for broaching such a fickle subject matter. A lot of words are being thrown around out in the stratosphere: “symbolism”, “hate”, “slavery”….all topics which we were taught as children to avoid somehow.
    However, I’m glad they’re broached here.
    Steelerfan, I agree that the abolition was not the only reason for the civil war BUT it became one of the main themes and, regardless of whether there were 1 or 1000, humans living under subjugation, the north and south were divided between “do it” and “hell no.”

    • I have to agree with GlutenFreeandMe in regards to the site I am very impressed! Original, random content makes for an entertaining break on the internet. Look forward to this debate series and plan to get into one of these debates myself!

  6. great debate and nice comments. i am not from the south, so i don’t fully understand the issue, but i enjoyed the debate. very interesting. each of you made good points

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