Confederate flag: Heritage or hate?

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Recent events across the nation, in South Carolina and locally here in Georgia, have served to renew keen interest in the Confederate flag, specifically the Stars and Bars battle flag.

After the tragic slaughter of black worshipers in Charleston, S.C., by a young white man after he prayed with the congregation, revelations appeared regarding his embrace of racist ideology symbolized by the Confederate flag.

His intent, allegedly, was to instigate the beginnings of a race war. Instead, the nation and people across the globe witnessed the city of Charleston as it came together in solidarity against hate.

Black and white, young and old, rich and poor, the entire spectrum of our nation stood together and made the clarion call for progressive change. The governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, made the courageous executive decision to bring down the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol and move it to where it rightfully belongs, in a museum.

We witnessed a South Carolina state senator with direct ties to Confederate leadership playing a prominent role in the ensuing legislative debate, and the president delivering a eulogy that will go down in the history books as one of his most powerful statements.

The Confederate flag came down but the debate did not end there. It has since moved to efforts to remove the flag from all federal and state facilities, license tags, and other public places.

On the flip side, there have also been counter elements pushing for retention of the Confederate flag based upon the heritage that it represents. They argue that the flag symbolizes their forefathers, and embodies history that they wish to honor.

Rallies have materialized, often with opposing groups present at the same event, Ku Klux Klan recruitment efforts have kicked into high gear, and locally, there is even an emerging effort to erase the Confederate images carved into Stone Mountain.

This morning there was a news report that someone deliberately chose to defile several historical civil rights sites by placing Confederate flags at the facilities. Ultimately, the debate over the confederate flag comes down to a matter of perspective.

As an African American, I can say without a doubt what the flag represents to me: Hate, fear, domestic terrorism, denial of civil rights, and slavery, just to name a few. I believe it is wrong for the Confederate flag to be flying over government and public facilities, facilities that are supposed to be there for the benefit of all citizens.

However, I do not concur with efforts to erase completely the Confederate flag from history. Like it or not, the Confederacy was a part of our history, dark and awful as it may be; but nonetheless, it is an undeniable element of our collective past.

In my humble opinion, the Confederate flag should remain flying over prominent Confederate battlefields, graveyards, and monuments. It is perfectly appropriate there and recognizes the historical facts of the site.

Similarly, I believe that if a person wishes to display the Confederate flag on their person or personal effects, they should have every right to do so. In fact, as an African American, I would much prefer to know people that hold the Confederacy in high esteem as that tells me something important about them.

While it is not necessarily something positive, it does tell me that until I get to know that person better, there is a need for caution.

I have no doubt there are some advocates of the Confederacy, those that truly embrace the historical aspects of honoring their ancestry, and to those I say “To each his own.”

However, please recognize that the symbol you chose to embrace for heritage symbolizes something entirely different and dark to a large and growing segment of our society; and your embrace sends a message of distrust and divisiveness.

Terrence K. Williamson
Fayetteville, Ga.