1. The flag as it’s seen today was rarely even used in the Civil War or beforehand.
During the Civil War, the Confederate states went through three different official flags. None of them are the flag currently debated today. The original confederacy began with the “Stars and Bars” flag that had a blue field in the upper left corner, three red and white stripes, and seven white stars in a circle. After complaints that the flag resembled the Union’s flag too closely, the Confederacy changed and revised the flag twice more. The version Dylan Roof and others now proudly wave is the third and last version of the flag that was flown by Robert E. Lee’s army for only a short time before the South surrendered.
This begs the question of why a barely used battle flag is now defended as the symbol of southern heritage. In fact, the modern-day Confederate flag only really started gaining popularity around the South during a different historical period a century later: the civil rights movement.
2. The flag resurfaced in the fifties to specifically combat civil rights and promote white supremacy.
The flag’s popularity exploded again in the 1960’s as a symbol specifically showing support for white supremacy during the Civil Rights Movement. An article in The Week described how in 1956, Georgia adopted its version of the Confederate flag in protest to Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruling that made segregation illegal. Strom Thurmond- the South Carolina senator who launched a 24-hour filibuster of the Civil Rights Act in 1957- originally adopted the flag for his “State’s Rights Party” or the “Dixiecrats” as a symbol of defiance against the growing emphasis on civil rights platforms of the Democratic Party.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization that still adamantly supports the Confederate Flag, still promoted the “great battle for white supremacy and southern ideals” for over fifty years after the Civil War ended. Ku Klux Klan rallies still hoist the confederate flag on a daily basis, as do organizations that still oppose segregation and mixed-race marriage.
3. The Confederacy openly declared that their secession was about slavery, not “state’s rights.” The flag represents that distinction.
Mississippi declaration’s: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery — the greatest material interest of the world.”
South Carolina’s declaration: “… A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”
An article in Politico quoted the Confederacy’s vice president, Alexander Stephens, saying that the arguments about “the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization” between North and South constituted “the immediate cause” of secession, and mentioning that “Our new Government,” was created “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.” The article argued that the Confederate constitution was almost identical to the U.S. Constitution except for its guarantee that “no law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves” would ever be approved by a Confederate government.
The South was not simply “going with the times” in its racist ideologies. The Confederate declarations, and the flag that represents their ideals, were in fact way behind the rest of the world: France had already abolished slavery in 1794, Mexico in 1810, and England in 1833.
4. In other countries, like Germany, the idea of keeping symbols associated with previous supremacist movements is unheard of.
Even though the Third Reich survived almost three times longer than the Confederacy, Germany’s approach to Nazi symbolism entirely contrasts the policies of the Southern states. In Germany, Nazi insignia and flags are banned and the idea of keeping Nazi memorabilia out of nostalgia or heritage is not supported by German politicians. The symbol was removed from the facades of buildings, and the act of naming streets or building monuments for former Nazi leaders simply doesn’t exist.
5. Even Robert E. Lee didn’t want anything to do with this flag after his army lost.
According to a CNN article, Lee declined invitations to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association by saying that “I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war.” At his funeral, not one Confederate flag was flown.
6. The majority of Americans already understand that the flag needs to go.
According to NPR, The University of Mississippi banned the waving Confederate flags at football games in 1997. In 2003, they retired their confederate soldier mascot “Colonel Reb” and dropped the song “From Dixie With Love” from their marching band set list. Republican candidate Jeb Bush endorsed the removal of the flag after he decided to remove it from the Florida statehouse grounds during his time as governor. Mitt Romney has agreed that confederate flags should be removed as well.
Surveys are showing that across the United States, Americans are increasingly disagreeing with the flag’s continuous presence: in 1992, only 40% of American disapproved of the flag. In 2015, that number has jumped to 64%, with only a quarter of American approving and 15% unsure.