This isn't a political site, but it's not apolitical. In the wake of the Charleston shootings, with all the discussion of the Confederate battle flag that mysteriously continues to fly over the South Carolina state house, I wanted to posit the following theoretical conversation, which sums up my experience (here represented by a Reasonable Person) interacting with Serious Southerners Who Just Want To Honor Their Heritage:
SS: The Confederate flag isn't racist, it's about states' rights!
RP: States' rights to...enable slavery.
SS: Well, yeah, originally, but now it's just showing our heritage.
RP: Heritage of embracing slavery.
SS: Not just that, our heritage of being independent and free!
RP: So you still want to secede from the United States?
SS: No, we want to show we're independent and willing to stand up for our freedoms.
RP: By flying the flag of a country that specifically called for enslavement of blacks. Who weren't free. Or independent.
SS: But we South Carolinians are free and independent. And for the record, we're not racist anymore.
RP: Which you show by putting up the flag of a country that specifically called for the enslavement of blacks.
SS: But that flag isn't racist, it's heritage!
RP: Sure, it's heritage. But it's racist. It's a heritage of racism.
SS: Look, that was 150 years ago. We've moved on. It means something different today.
RP: Except for racists who proudly display the flag as a symbol of their racism.
SS: Look, we're not racist anymore.
RP: So you'd be fine with putting up some other symbol to celebrate the history of South Carolina, like the original Moultrie Flag, or a flag that just has the state seal or coat of arms.
SS: That doesn't represent us like the old Confederate flag.
RP: The Confederate battle flag. The one that stood for the whole Confederacy fighting for slavery.
SS: It wasn't about slavery!
RP: So when the founding document of the Confederacy says, "No law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed", that doesn't mean anything about slavery? And the Cornerstone Speech was just a slip of the tongue.
SS: That's not why they went to war. They went to war because of the abuses of the federal government.
RP: Abuses like enacting laws that limit or eliminate slavery?
SS: Yeah, at the time, those were abuses.
RP: So you reject the federal government's ability to do that today?
SS: No, we embrace states' rights with a reasonable federal government.
RP: Meaning that you think states should have the right to secede from the union and enact any law they want?
SS: Well, maybe. I mean, the federal government shouldn't stop people who want to do something democratically.
RP: Like have slaves?
SS: No, not like that. That's evil and immoral.
RP: But it was democratic. And it might be democratic in the future. Who stops slavery in that case?
SS: Nobody, I guess. But we would never do that. We're not racist. And slavery is un-Constitutional.
RP: It is federally, but it wasn't in South Carolina. And it wasn't in the Confederacy. So flying the flag allies you with the Confederacy, which embraced slavery.
SS: No, we ally with states' rights.
RP: By celebrating the Confederacy's right to have whites vote that blacks can be held as slaves.
SS: They would have abolished slavery eventually. They just didn't want the North telling them they had to do it.
RP: So the war was over being told what to do?
RP: Like being told that slavery was morally offensive?
SS: Well, yeah. It was up to them to decide that.
RP: Democratically. As whites. Because blacks were slaves and didn't count.
SS: Er. Yes. Sure.
RP: South Carolina said this when it seceded: "[The] ends for which [the federal] Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assumed the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions [i.e. slavery]; and have denied the rights of property [i.e. slaves] established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to enjoin the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection." You can only assume the slaves agreed with this sentiment.
SS: No, but...well, it was part of the times.
RP: So in summary, you think a flag celebrating the Confederacy should stay because the history of South Carolina includes (1) anti-U.S. sentiments; (2) slavery and enduring racism; and (3) democracy by white people.
SS: Wow, you make it sound so racist.
RP: It is. It's racist. There is nothing not racist about it. That history is entirely racist, entirely anti-black, entirely about slavery and oppression of blacks and securing the desires of white people at the expense of blacks. It's practically the definition of racism. And the only people who embrace it today are people who are either willfully ignorant of history -- because you really have to want to misunderstand that part of the Civil War -- or they're flat-out racists.