Race

The issue of race and the Confederate flag is both the simplest and the most important factor in the controversy. Blacks, unlike whites, have a generally unified opinion on the matter. They see the flag as a symbol of a racist past, a past of servitude, slavery, and second-class citizenship for African-Americans, and they have no desire to revel in the so-called glory, bravery, and refinement of such a heritage. Blacks are not apt to have any fond idealistic remembrances of the Old South or harbor any sympathy for the Confederate cause. The fact that the symbol still lingers and has such a prevalent postion in society over 130 years after the Civil War is in and of itself evidence to blacks that racism is alive and well. The flag is the banner of white supremacy groups in the United States, like the Ku Klux Klan, and is even used abroad by neo-nazi skinhead groups. African-American scholar Mwangi Kimenyi offers that, "the Confederate flag is the semi-official symbol that represents the mark of 'old all white' traditions and the exclusionary feelings of whites towards blacks" (52). Blacks see the flag as a marker that "stands in the schoolhouse door," keeping them from having the rights that are theirs as Americans. Whites retaliate with the argument that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan also misuse symbols like the cross, but that doesn't stop churches from using crosses. Other whites claim First Amendment rights, saying that no matter what the flag symbolizes, the "true friend of liberty realizes we must allow...the Confederate flag," to be flown wherever individuals choose (Larson).