Don't Let Dylann Roof and the SPLC Define the Confederate Flag

I am going to go against what seems to be the wave of public opinion, including that of prominent Republicans, by urging South Carolina to keep the Confederate flag.  I also encourage people to circumvent Amazon.com's and eBay's bans on Confederate flag merchandise by looking for alternate distribution channels.  Let somebody other than Amazon and eBay collect the commissions on the sales.

The reason is simple: if we go along with repudiation of the Confederate flag, then (alleged until proven guilty) murderer Dylann Roof wins.  We will have allowed him and the Ku Klux Klan on one side, and race hustlers like the Southern Poverty Law Center and Al Sharpton on the other, to hand the Confederate flag over to white supremacists to use as their symbol.  There is even conversation about removing the names of Confederate generals such as Robert E. Lee from Army bases.  Al Sharpton, of course, supports this agenda, even though he, unlike General Lee, was at least partially responsible for two incidents of racist violence (Crown Heights and Freddy's Fashion Mart).

Robert E. Lee never participated in, much less led, a KKK rally around a black-owned store in a Caucasian neighborhood.  He therefore compares very favorably to Al Sharpton, who personally called the owner of Freddy's Fashion Mart a "white interloper" while his followers threatened to set fire to the store, and one finally did.  Come to think of it, it would be instructive to determine whether Lee ever used the N-word (even when it was socially acceptable) in contrast to Al Sharpton, who applied it to New York mayor David Dinkins.  Sharpton has also often used colorful language for white people in general and Jews in particular.

General Lee's distaste for slavery was meanwhile comparable to Abraham Lincoln's.  "There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil."  Lee, however, became a role model for character and integrity when he declined command of the Union Army to serve in an initially subordinate position in the Confederate Army.

The Confederate Flag Is Not about Slavery

I don't know how many thousands of slaves were imported under the Stars and Stripes, but the number imported under the Stars and Bars comes to roughly zero.  Prior to the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the Baltimore (as in Yankee rather than Confederate) clipper ship played a major role in slave transportation.  Even as late as 1849, Baltimore-built clippers played an active role in the slave trade under foreign flags.  "In 1849 reports surfaced indicating that a Baltimore clipper had cleared $400,000 from eleven slave-trading voyages over a four-year period."

This little piece of history, by the way, proves the blatant double standards of those agitating for removal of the Confederate flag.  "Baltimore Clippers" was the name of a hockey team and a basketball team in Baltimore, a solid blue (Obama Democrat) municipality. A reasonable person would acknowledge this as a symbol of pride in the city's shipbuilding history, but it could also be construed as glorification of the city's role in the slave trade.

Don't Revise History

If we allow Dylann Roof, the KKK, Al Sharpton, and the SPLC to define the Confederate flag as a racist hate symbol, we are also tolerating revisionist history to the effect that the Civil War was about slavery.  While the issue of slavery was certainly divisive, the war's primary cause was economic.  Men who had to march barefoot because they could not afford boots did not own slaves, and they were far more likely kept out of paying work by the institution of slavery.  They would have no more fought to defend the right of a few percent of the South's population to own slaves than today's working class would fight to defend the right of corporations to ship jobs offshore for cheap labor.

In addition, the Underground Railroad could have never operated without complicity by Southerners who were willing to look the other way while slaves escaped.  Many Northern workers meanwhile supported slavery because they were afraid that emancipated blacks would take their jobs.  There was plenty of right and wrong on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The industrialized North could abolish slavery for the same reason the United Kingdom abolished it.  Mechanization and productivity make slavery uneconomical, just as Henry Ford proved later that mechanization and productivity make low-wage labor uneconomical.  Northern factory owners, however, agitated for tariffs on the goods that the South imported from the United Kingdom in exchange for cotton.  This was simply another version of a major cause of the War of Independence; the United Kingdom would not let its colonies manufacture anything, and forced them instead to trade raw materials for finished goods.  If we look at the principal and immediate cause of the Civil War from the perspective of the Founding Fathers, therefore, the Confederacy was in the right.  The Confederacy was of course wrong about slavery, but slavery persisted the longest in the states that remained loyal to the Union.

Only after the war began did Abraham Lincoln issue the Emancipation Proclamation, which British cartoonist John Tenniel dismissed as a political ploy in which Abraham Lincoln plays an "Ace of Spades" against Jefferson Davis.  The Emancipation Proclamation must therefore be viewed as doing the right thing (abolishing slavery) for the wrong reason (as a weapon against the South rather than against the inherent wrongness of slavery).  It meanwhile exempted every single slave-owning state such as Maryland (the home of the Baltimore slave ship), Delaware, and West Virginia.  Slavery remained legal in those jurisdictions until 1865.

This brings us to the next issue.

If the Confederate Flag Is a Hate Symbol, so Are the Penny and Five-Dollar Bill

History quiz #3: "I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say, in addition to this, that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior and inferior. I am as much as any other man in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."  Who said it?

  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (founder of the Ku Klux Klan)
  • Simon Legree (in Uncle Tom's Cabin)
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln-Douglas debate)
  • Robert E. Lee
  • Stonewall Jackson
  • David Duke (Ku Klux Klan)

The quote is straight from the Great Emancipator, whose name is on many public schools in black neighborhoods.  Lincoln was admittedly ahead of his time because he did not believe that the "white race's" purported superiority over black people went so far as to entitle white people to own black people, but he was not ahead of his anti-slavery contemporaries like Robert E. Lee.  Should we therefore remove Lincoln's portrait from the penny and the five-dollar bill?

Let's first consider, though, the proposition that somebody's use of anything as a hate symbol makes it a hate symbol.

What Is a Hate Symbol?

The Ku Klux Klan often marches with the Confederate flag.  A group of Confederate reenactors once turned up at such an event with their own Confederate flag and, as soon as the Klansmen got close enough, turned as a single man to show the Kluxers their backs.  The Confederate flag obviously has a very different meaning to each of the two groups.

The fact that the Phelps family and Jeremiah Wright (Barack Obama's pastor) preach hatred from behind the Christian cross, and the fact that the Klan burns crosses, does not mean that the cross represents hate.  If the person burning the cross is wearing a kilt rather than a sheet and hood, in fact, he probably has nothing against black people, although, in the bad old days, he might have had something against a rival clan (that's clan with a c and not a k).

Are sheets and hoods hate symbols?  It depends again on the context in which they are displayed.  These Spanish Penitentes (Holy Week penitents) hide their faces not because they have any intention of threatening or harming black people, but because they believe that public religious devotion should be anonymous.

The swastika is obviously a hate symbol, but only if one believes that pre-Columbian Native Americans as well as ancient Indo-Europeans were Nazis.  I saw a swastika petroglyph in Nevada, and I doubt that the people who drew it ever heiled anybody or anything but the Great Spirit.  ProSwastika.org argues quite persuasively, "By associating the swastika with the Nazis, we only give credit to the monstrosities of this horrible regime."  In other words, the world allowed the Nazis to define the swastika at the expense of hundreds of millions of people around the world who used it long before anybody ever heard of a Nazi, and to whom its meaning is contrary to everything the Nazis represent.  Hitler, at least to the extent of stigmatizing Native American, Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Tibetan, etc. swastikas in this manner, therefore won that part of the Second World War even though he lost the rest.


Nazi Native Americans?  Not in 1909.

The Confederate Flag and the Right of Self-Defense

The states of the former Confederacy, unlike many Union strongholds like New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts, believe that the Second Amendment means exactly what it says rather than what the likes of Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama want it to mean.  It means that people of all races have an inherent right to possess weapons for defense of home, family, and country.  The fact that Roof allegedly used a weapon with a seven-round New York SAFE Act-compliant magazine saved none of his unarmed victims, as he was able to reload several times.

What would have saved them would have been a controlled pair to Roof's thoracic cavity followed by another to his head if he was still standing with a weapon in his hand.  This is a solution that blacks who might be afraid to go to church because of racist threats, and Jews who might be afraid to go to a synagogue because of Islamist terrorists, ought to consider.

William A. Levinson is the author of several books on business management including content on organizational psychology, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.