Heritage is often defined as something inherited due to the place, time, or circumstances of someone’s birth. Heritage is not unlike culture which includes the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular group transmitted from one generation to another. Both terms, heritage and culture, have been thrown around a lot recently by Americans living in the former Confederacy to defend their sick twisted clinging to a flag symbolizing white supremacy and treason against the United States of America.
Southerners are quick to claim that the Confederate flag, no matter which version, has nothing whatsoever to do with either white supremacy (racism) or treason. In their estimation they know is a lie, the Confederate flag(s) are just a symbol of Southern heritage and culture. However, that was never what the flag symbolized and there is no better reference to what the flag stands for than the words of the treasonous racist who designed it.
The white supremacist who designed the Confederacy’s flag(s), one William T. Thompson, gave the definitive reason why every Republican, KKK member, and so-called Southern heritage advocate still supports flying that symbol of treason and racism. Thompson was proud to admit that “As a people we are fighting to maintain the heavenly ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause. Such a flag would be a suitable emblem of our young confederacy, and sustained by the brave hearts and strong arms of the south, it would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.”
Many Americans of all races today refer to any of the Confederacy’s flags as “the white supremacist’s flag” and they would not have been wrong during the Civil War and they are certainly not wrong in the 21st Century. When the racist flag’s defenders claim it is just an innocent symbol of their Southern heritage and culture, they are defending the white supremacy they know the flag symbolized during the Civil War continuing to the present. It is part of the Southern culture, and their beloved heritage, they have learned all their lives and likely studied in history classes.
For example, in what is known as the Cornerstone Address, Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens railed against, and harshly condemned, the nation’s Declaration of Independence from England. He also believed, like evangelicals since the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, that the Founding Fathers’ assertion that “all men are created equal” is wrong and a lie.
Stephens said, “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” That flag, no matter which version, is antithetical to the ideals on which America was founded and it is a fact that every resident of the South is very well aware and it is why they revere the racist symbol like it is their god.
The KKK certainly understands what the Confederacy’s flag represents; the South’s white supremacist heritage. It is why shortly after calls for the racist symbol’s removal from South Carolina government buildings and grounds, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan’s Pelham, North Carolina chapter reserved the Statehouse Grounds in South Carolina for a rally next month. James Spears, the Great Titan of the chapter, said the group would be rallying to protest “the Confederate flag being took (sic) down for all the wrong reasons. It’s part of white people’s culture.” It is important to note that “Great Titan” Spears did not say the flag was part of the South’s heritage, or to honor treasonous Confederate war dead, but that it is Southern “white people’s” culture; a culture founded in white supremacy and racial animus toward African Americans.
In fact, the KKK Pelham chapter just changed its home page to demonstrate its vehement opposition to the white supremacist flag’s removal with the heading “Say No To Cultural Genocide,” and that “most white people are to [sic] cowardly to stand up for their heritage.” One hopes that most ‘white‘ people in America do not consider racism and white supremacist ideology any part of “their heritage,” but that hope is waning with more news that across the Confederacy African American churches are being set ablaze like it is still the Civil Rights era.
Since Confederate hero Dylann Roof gunned down nine innocent African Americans for being free African Americans in the former Confederacy, there have been a string of arson attacks on other black churches in the South. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported last week that (at the time) “at least” six predominately Black churches in four Southern states were heavily damaged or destroyed by fire in less than a week’s time. Interestingly, although federal, state, and local law enforcement officials readily admitted that most of the fires were set by arsonists, they are remiss to call them hate crimes committed by Confederate white supremacists. It is likely to avoid antagonizing racist Dylann Roof types who still cling to the belief that burning African American churches, like gunning down nine African Americans at a church bible study, is the Confederate way of “saying no to cultural genocide.” It is apparently the work of Southern white people who are not too cowardly to “stand up for their heritage,” or defend a flag designed to symbolize white superiority.
The white superiority mindset never died in the South, and the KKK has spent over a hundred years not only keeping it alive and well, but has worked tirelessly behind the scenes propagating the idea that the white supremacy is the natural order. In 1915 the Ku Klux Klan employed a wildly popular film, the Birth of a Nation, for recruitment purposes and to promote its white supremacist vision according to historian Nancy MacLean’s 1994 book, Behind the Mask of Chivalry.
MacLean wrote; “In this racist epic of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the restoration of white rule, (film maker) Griffith harnessed all the emotive power of modern film-making to convince viewers that black men were beasts and white vigilantes were the saviors of American civilization. Given the right to vote and hold office, the film averred, African-American men dragged society into chaos; worse, they used such power to stalk white women. In the final, climactic scene, the hooded and robed members of the Ku Klux Klan rode in to save the film’s young white heroine by castrating and lynching her black would-be assailant. Their act gave birth to a reunited America.” That reunited America is where the country stands today and it is abominable.
Based on Confederate mass murderer Dylann Roof’s comments before slaughtering nine African Americans in their church, racism and chivalry is still an essential part of the South’s heritage and culture of white supremacy; not much has changed. The sad fact is that not only has little changed in the “culture and heritage” of the former Confederacy where predominately Black churches are still being burned, and African Americans are gunned down during a bible study, the Ku Klux Klan is still promoting a culture and heritage of white supremacy and defending a symbol that many Americans still believe ardently is a “part of white people’s culture.” The tragedy is that the Klan is right and according to a white supremacist Dylann Roof was encouraged by, the Charleston massacre is “just a preview of coming attractions.”