Opinion — Flag misrepresents who we are

Published 1:30 pm Thursday, May 12, 2022

I read the letters to the editor supporting the flying of the Confederate flag and removal of the Confederate statue from High Street. The writers admonish readers for not respecting their views of history and references their “right” to stand up to the historical wrongs done to their ancestors. They call those of us who might see this symbol differently as “uneducated” or “communists.” They provide a series of justifications for the unasked for raising of a Confederate flag over the entrance to our town and our community. Such a unilateral act of oppression has consequences.

This assault on our community is hardly a demonstration of “respect for each others views.” If the writers had taken time to investigate when and why the statues were erected in the first place, if they had actually proposed a county-wide referendum on whether to raise the Confederate flag, then perhaps, it might have been a way to initiate a conversation about history. But like so many in the “alt-right” today that promote hatred and white-supremacy, they do not want dialogue. During the 1860s-1880 statues were erected to honor the Confederate dead but most erected after 1890 during Jim Crow promoted the Lost Cause mythology that claimed that slavery was not the cause of the war. This disenfranchisement of African Americans was to keep the postwar political power in the segregated hands of whites who had lost economic power after the war with the loss of slavery and wanted to not only regain and retain it, but through Jim Crow laws, continue to oppress Black citizens by restricting access to voting, to fund a separate and unequal education which resulted in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, and deny African Americans civil rights.

These issues are still alive in our community and in our country today. The Neo-Confederates in The League of the South carried the Confederate flag in the Unite the Right riot in Charlottesville and with their neo-Nazi and so called “alt-right” allies brought it into the United States Capitol in Trump’s failed insurrection to overturn a presidential election. Unfortunately, what may have originally been an attempt to honor those who died in the Civil War has been recast as a symbol of hate and oppression by Trump supporters and “alt-right” groups. According a 2016 article in the Daily Beast by historian and writer, Kevin M. Levin, “For the Virginia Flaggers, It’s Hate, Not Heritage,” “many members have direct ties to White Nationalist groups such as the League of the South.” Susan Hathaway the group’s founder was photographed in 2012 with Matthew Heimbach who became the League of the South’s training director and considered by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to be “the new face of white nationalism” and agreed to join Kirk Lyons of the Southern Legal Resource Center, another group the SPLC cited as “Extremist.”

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Is this the message we want to send to parents bringing their children to college at Longwood University or Hampden Sydney College? Is this what we want those passing through Farmville or stopping at Green Front or hiking the High Bridge Trail to remember about our community? Personally, as a citizen of Prince Edward County, this image misrepresents who we are and what we stand for as Americans.

DR. CHAPMAN HOOD FRAZIER can be reached by email at hoodfrazier350@gmail.com.