Confederate Flags and the South

June 24, 2015

I haven’t weighed in on the whole Confederate flag debate because, honestly, I can’t believe it’s even a debate.

Look, I like the South. I like deep porches and macaroni-and-cheese as a vegetable and Live Oak trees and biscuits and mint juleps and slow-talkers. Of course, the South is more than slavery. But though it is more than that, it includes, always, a history of slavery, racism, and systemic brutality.

So, yes, I’m for taking the Confederate flag down. I’m also not for Nazi flags, even though I don’t hate German culture or Volkswagens or Oktoberfest.

Here’s the thing: Flags are not the way to make a nuanced statement about a complex culture. Flags are ideological. That’s how flags work. And the Confederate flag was used as a symbol of a society propped up by slavery, not only that but the flag continued to fly (all too often) during decades of Jim Crow, lynchings, the KKK, and redlining. That is the ideology that the Confederate flag now represents. Whatever you’d like it to mean, history has given it a meaning that you cannot choose and it is, inevitably, a symbol of racism and oppression.

If you want a flag that honors Southern culture, this isn’t it.

So make a new flag. Put Johnny Cash lyrics on it. Or lightning bugs. Or Bourbon. Or something fried. That’s something we can all get behind. But, honestly, this ought not even be a debate. After the history of systemic evil and oppression against people of color in America broadly and the South specifically, it would be completely legitimate for brothers and sisters of color to ask whites to fly a flag for the next 300 years that just reads “We are really, really sorry.” Taking down the confederate flag is, truly, the very least we can do.

This post was written by Tish Harrison Warren, who is a new contributor here at The Queso. (We have a number of new contributors who are joining us and will be hanging out here a lot.) And she’s the one I’ve know the longest for sure. Because, for starters, she’s my little sister. You can read more about Tish here but I can tell you right now that she watched the movie The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas more times before she was six years old than most humans have in their entire lives, combined. Oh also, she’s a priest.

Please welcome my very favorite sister to The Queso!

Image Credit: Vacation Rentals Charleston

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  • Reply Heather June 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    This is perfect, especially this line:

    Whatever you’d like it to mean, history has given it a meaning that you cannot choose and it is, inevitably, a symbol of racism and oppression.

    Thank you for writing this!

    • Laura Harrison Mayes
      Reply Laura June 24, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Heather, it’s so spot on, right? She nailed it. Related: I’m so glad Tish will be writing more here.

  • Reply Barchbo June 25, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Well said, Tish! I for one would proudly hang a flag with Johnny Cash’s lyrics on it. Please let me know if you open at Etsy shop for this.

    As a Yankee who has lived in the south for almost 30 years, I’ve been barking about the Confederate flag for what seems like an eternity. Of course, as a New Yorker, I have no standing. I love love LOVE hearing and seeing Southerners take this on and the scales falling from people’s eyes.

  • Reply Jenny, Bloggess June 25, 2015 at 11:08 am


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