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Debate: Banning the confederate flag

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Should the Confederate flag be banned?

Background and context

The American Civil War of 1861-65 saw three million men fight the only war to take place on American soil between Americans, with 600,000 casualties resulting from heavy fighting that featured the first appearance of the trench in modern warfare.
The war occurred after the Democratic party lost control of the national government (particularly, the Senate) to the new Republican party, at a time of tremendous tension in American politics between those who wished the newly created states of the West to be ‘slaveholding’ (thus maintaining a balance between ‘slave’ and ‘free’ states in the Senate) and those that thought they should be ‘free’. The secessionist southern states (in order of seccession) South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky, are represented by the thirteen stars on the Confederate flag. The Confederacy sought to establish its own government under President Jefferson Davis, at their capital of Richmond, Virginia. Though often militarily more sophisticated, the South – under the brilliant generalship of Robert E Lee – was worn down by the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by the North in personnel and industrial capacity. Surrender in 1865 was followed by a plethora of punitive measures against the ‘slave’ states, who were readmitted to the Union against the wishes of many of their citizens. The right to display the Confederate flag is an enormous issue in the Southern states of the USA, especially in schools. Thousands of students have been sent home from school because they’ve been wearing clothing displaying the Confederate ‘battle flag;’ many such incidents have resulted in legal disputes. The South Carolina case of Dr. Winston McCuen v. St. Joseph High School, involving a teacher sacked for refusing to remove the flag from the wall of his classroom and consequently neglecting to observe the Pledge of Allegience, has acted as a focal point for,[1]

Contents

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Free speech: Is bearing the confederate flag protected by free speech right?

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Yes

  • Confederate flag incites violence; this overrides free speech concerns. Free speech is not always protected. There are instances in which it can be restricted. The most common instances of this are libel, slander, and hateful speech. The confederate flag represents separatism and violent racism. As a symbol, it incites separatism and violent racism. For these reasons, it should be restricted, just as hate speech and other violations of public safety and stability should be restricted.


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No

  • Bearing the confederate flag is protected by the right to free speech. First Amendment rights are being trampled in the name of political correctness. This is one of the reasons why the American Civil Liberties Union opposes any plans to ban the practice. It is especially unreasonable when other flags - those of Iraq or Palestine, for example, highly contentious symbols themselves - are not subject to such bans. Furthermore, slaves were brought to the USA on ships sailing under the Stars and Stripes - there is no suggestion that that should be banned; rather, in many states the national flag is present by statutory requirement in every public building.[2]


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Racism: Is the confederate flag a racist symbol?

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Yes

  • The confederate flag is associated with racism. Many support the viewpoint of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, who hold that it is unreasonable to ask African Americans not to react to someone wearing the rebel flag. To ask black people to respect a flag that was flown by a group whose political priority was their desire to totally subjugate and dehumanise them is unreasonable.[3]


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No

  • The confederate flag is often used in a historical context. Some people such as in the ku klux klan use it as a hate symbol and fly it to hurt colored peoples feelings where others use it as a symbol of there heritage it means something to them they have black friends the same as whites yet they love the confederate flag its sacred and if they say "if this flag offends you you need a history lesson" or "heritage not hate" which both mean they dont hate blacks its their heritage and for that it should not be banned.


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Cultural value? Is the flag clearly racist, or does it have higher cultural value?

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Yes

  • The Confederate flag is inherently racist in its symbolism: Why should the Confederate flag be regarded any differently from the swastika? Those who fly it are proclaiming their support for racist principles that belong in the past.[4]
  • The Confederate flag has not been a consistent cultural fixture of the South: It did not enjoy renewed popularity until the civil rights era of the 1960s, when it became a symbol of opposition to the movement.[5]



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No

  • The Confederate flag is an important symbol of Southern culture and solidarity: In a nation that encourages minorities to celebrate their own cultures more and more, to demand a cessation of such celebration regarding the culture of the South (of which this is the most vivid symbol) is little short of perverse. The Confederate flag forms a significant element of several state flags, Georgia’s being a prominent example. As such it means more than Confederacy of the past - it also means pride in the south of the present. Slavery ended nearly 150 years ago; the flag means something very different to the people that proudly display it now. A comparison with Nazism is both repulsive and unfair.[6]
  • The Confederate flag is no more racist than the Union flag: The presumption made by the other side of this debate is the common misconception that the war was fought entirely over slavery, that the North was black peoples' best friend, and that slaves only existed in the South. Let us examine the facts. First, the fallacious claim that there were no slaves in the North. This is simply not true, as Northerners did keep slaves. Furthermore, many "free states" did not allow blacks, slave or free, to enter. Secondly, that Abraham Lincoln cared about the welfare of the slaves. This is disproven by the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the CSA--where Lincoln had no control at the time!
  • The confederate flag represented more than racism (a complicated issue): Furthermore, it is not as if every Southerner, or even most Southerners, owned slaves. Only the wealthy plantation owners did, and it also was not as if anyone could have simply freed their slaves and made the problem go away, as it was nearly impossible for free blacks to find employment. While slavery was a great evil, it was not something which could be fixed with a snap of the fingers, and the fact that there were slaves in the South does not make the Confederate flag a racist symbol.


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In schools: Should the confederate flag be banned in schools?

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Yes

  • Schools can ban the confederate flag like gang colors or miniskirts: all are disruptive to the school learning environment. The mass production of clothing aimed at the student market by companies like Dixie Outfitters exploits bad feelings amongst ethnic groups and encourages clashes between them.[7]


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No

  • Confederate flag represent pride in one's community; unlike miniskirts. This is very different from the other ‘disruptive’ influences identified here. They have no positive contribution. On the other hand, pride in one’s region is a legitimate, even laudable passion. This is an attempt to refute Southern heritage; it shouldn’t be allowed in schools or anywhere else. In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that school officials could not prohibit students from wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War - why can’t students show their support for their home?[8]


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Argument #4

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Yes

Those who wish to flaunt the Confederate flag in public are backward-looking, rejecting the diversity and dynamism of the “new South” that has developed since the civil rights era: By persistently promoting a divisive symbol, they undermine continuing efforts at integration and generate negative views of the South in the rest of the nation and internationally, reducing investment and prosperity.[9]



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No

It is discriminatory to ban Confederate symbols because they do not fit in with some people’s views of what the South should be like: Southerners who respect their Confederate heritage and wish to preserve traditional ways are now an embattled group, assaulted by politically correct liberals and others who want to publicise their own minority rights agenda. If we value diversity and respect each other’s cultures, why should that of the old South be uniquely singled out for attack? If others did not claim to be offended by traditional symbols, then there would be no negative publicity.[10]


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Pro/con resources

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Yes

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No


External links

Books:

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