I've been lied to, and I can't believe I fell for it.

Image Credit: Public Domain  Creative Commons CC0

Image Credit: Public Domain Creative Commons CC0

Growing up, I always suspected that I wasn't getting the whole Truth. I saw evidence everywhere that corroborated the Lie. Everyone told me it was true. I even learned it in school, so I didn't think to question it too much.

Now, I feel like an idiot. It should've been obvious that the Truth was right in front of me if I only looked. Now, I'm mad, because the Truth is not only documented, undeniable, and easily understood, but is hidden in plain sight. And I'll bet you fell for it, too.

I grew up in North Carolina. My family used to visit battlegrounds from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Both wars, of course, were rebellions, but something felt off to me. The general narrative that I was being told about the Civil War was that some people thought it was about slavery, some people thought it was about states' rights, but there wasn't a clear understanding of the causes. And the Northerners were the bad guys, until they won and then the Southerners were forced to submit to an overreaching Federal government. This is what I learned in school, at home, and everywhere in between.

In Elementary School, I had a 45-minute school-bus ride each way. The bus was overcrowded and most seats had three kids in them when they were meant for two. I was one of two white kids (until my little brother started school, then there were three of us) and the rest were African-American. I was ruthlessly picked on, bullied by this hoard of kids that banded together against me because I wasn't like them. It was easy to believe some of the things I heard people around me say about black people. As I grew up, though, I became sort of a "champion of the underdog." I can't tolerate injustice and I sometimes get myself in over my head trying to right the wrongs of the world. This conflicted with the subtle racism that I was also feeling. Once I started paying attention, the racism began to become more obvious and disgusting to me.

After the horrific terrorist attack on the AME church in Charleston, I had some interesting discussions about the Confederate flags and what they really represented. To my surprise, the answer to this question was easy to find, and absolutely clear. There was no "grey area" about the causes of secession and the formation of the Confederacy. There was no question about what the Civil War was about. The historical documents spell it out in amazing clarity.

Each of the 13 states that seceded to form the Confederacy passed a Secession Act and 5 of them passed Declarations of Causes, explaining their reasons for seceding and forming the Confederacy. I'm embarrassed that I am 43 years old, completed high school, obtained a college degree, and this is the FIRST TIME I am reading these documents. I'm embarrassed, not only for me, but for our public school system. I had to memorize the Gettysburg Address, but never once were these documents presented for discussion or analysis. Why? Is this part of maintaining the Lie? Have you read these documents? If not, I recommend you do. You can find them here and here. In the meantime, I've picked out a few highlights:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.
— A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union.

In other words, "White people are people. Africans are property"

Those [non slave-holding] States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery;
— Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

Or, "you Northern states that realize that slavery is immoral keep attacking us because we think slavery is our right as the dominant White race."

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery— the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.
— A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. That's pretty blatant.

The Confederacy was formed so states could continue to treat people as property. The Civil War was fought mainly over slavery. Any flags of the Confederacy represent a fight to treat people as property and force them into slavery. I don't see how anyone can argue differently, considering that the people who formed the Confederacy wrote it down, proudly, for the world to see. They made no secret that it was about slavery at the time, so why are we confused now?

If you hold some attachment to these flags from a dark and evil time in our history, and find a reason to attach other meanings such as "family values," or "southern living," to these symbols that were designed to fight for racism, then you fell for the Lie. The Confederate flags were never meant to stand for family values, but as a rally banner for the troops fighting to preserve the right to hold slaves. They are infamous for their darker meaning, and if you choose to display any of those flags, people are going to assume that you approve of those original darker meanings. We will think you are a racist, just like you would assume I was a Nazi if I carried around a Nazi flag. I can say, "no, to me this flag represents determination, ambition, and visionary thinking!" but that doesn't change the meaning of that flag. We know what it means.

And now you know what the Confederate flags mean. If you aren't racist, abandon this flag to history where it belongs so you aren't sending confusing messages. Find another symbol for southern living and family values. I suggest the American flag.