Will the Black Lives Matter movement finally put an end to Confederate flags and statues?
The national protest movement that broke out after George Floyd's death has rekindled a fire under the cultural tinderbox known as American Confederacy.
Over the past week, officials, military officers and sports managers have taken steps to dismantle Confederate statues and ban the Confederate flag. This iconography is inextricably linked to the southern cause that triggered the civil war: the preservation of an anchored way of life for slavery.
While such efforts have flared up in recent years, historians say the Black Lives Matter protest movement is sweeping the nation again after Floyd's death has catapulted the issue into a place of unprecedented visibility that is likely to have lasting effects. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, was held on the ground by officials after being accused of handing over a fake $ 20 bill to a grocery store. In a video of the encounter, Floyd gasped as policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
"We're in a different world now, the mask is off because these things are symbols of slavery," said Stephanie McCurry, professor of American history at Columbia University in New York City and author of "Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in "the South Civil War. "" I don't think there will be a return from that moment on. "
Billing was quick compared to a patchwork of previous efforts.
After the famous white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, the Confederate flag - also known as the rebel flag - was removed from the state building.
Two years later, a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the death of a protester led to calls for demolition of statues of Confederate leaders, but conservative local politicians largely managed to keep the statues in place.
"This seems like a really easy fight to me, and the fact that it's so difficult for us is an indication that we still have a very, very, very long way to go," said the former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. "It is difficult for people to change. Racism is a painful disease that this country has been dealing with for a long time."
Landrieu made national headlines in 2015 when he successfully advocated removing statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G. T. Beauregard, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He says the obstacles he faced showed how effectively Confederate leaders were able to disguise their support for slavery by making war a "noble cause" instead.
"The premise was that blacks were inferior to whites," he says. "These monuments and these flags, though they are symbols, are up there because of an attitude of white supremacy and a tendency towards the very simple notion that it is completely and entirely wrong that African Americans are not equal and smaller than."
A statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee will be removed from Lee Circle in New Orleans on Friday, May 19, 2017. Lee's was the last of four Confederate monuments that were removed as part of a 2015 City Council vote on a proposal from Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The recent events have led to comparatively rapid changes.
Statues were destroyed in Jacksonville, Florida, and Indianapolis that week alone, while Virginia governor Ralph Northam ordered an icon of southern general Robert E. Lee to be removed when protesters in his state overthrew other symbols of the Confederate leaders.
The Confederate flag is inherently “a symbol of white domination and slavery. This is why white supremacists have raised the flag themselves over the years because they too recognize it as a symbol of white supremacy, ”said Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Center on Extremism in the Anti-Defamation League.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have requested the removal of 10 statues of leading Confederate figures, while Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said he was open to renaming military bases named Confederated Brass. President Donald Trump tweeted his opposition to such a move.
"These monumental and very powerful bases have become part of a great American heritage and a story of winning, victory and freedom," Trump tweeted on Thursday.
Hours later, the Senate Republican Force Committee approved a major change to remove the names of Confederate generals from bases, buildings, planes, ships, and even roads within three years.
Other military leaders have already weighed. The Navy announced on Tuesday that it would ban the Confederate flag from its military facilities. Last week, the Marine Corps began introducing some form of ban on displaying the flag.
In this file photo dated January 19, 2016, Hjalmberi Shytox from Purvis, Miss., Is flying a Mississippi state flag in front of the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., While attending a rally to hold the Confederate Battle emblem in the state.
This decision alludes to the many African Americans who serve in the armed forces, but far-reaching reforms are needed to fully integrate people with color, says Gaines Foster, history professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
"African Americans have been fighting the use of the flag since the Civil War," says Forster, a battle that only began to bear fruit after the murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. "What happened after the shooting in Charleston was just the last leg of a long fight."
NASCAR shocks with no flags
In sports, NASCAR sent shock waves through its fan base when it announced its own Confederate flag ban on Monday, which is ubiquitous in stock car races, as the sport has southern roots in illegal moonlight runs during prohibition.
This move was generated by one of the few African American drivers in the sport, Bubba Wallace, who promptly decorated his car with a Black Lives Matter logo over a wheel arch. Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who is white, also applauded.
"NASCAR is synonymous with the Confederate flag," said Lecia Brooks, a civil rights lawyer at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "These are important movements. People finally understand and accept what we understand by systemic racism. I think we are in it." A real turning point where people really understand it. "
In an updated edition of the 2016 report "Whose legacy?" The SPLC identified 114 Confederate symbols that were removed after the Charleston attack - and 1,747 that were still standing.
Megan Kate Nelson, author and historian of the civil war, says the ongoing protests against racism have prompted government officials and businesses to grapple with the Confederacy legacy.
“This has forced companies to take action on a much larger scale. I have to say I never thought I would see the day when NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from their events, ”she says.
Memphian Brett Schutt takes a photo of the distant statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Fourth Bluff Park on Thursday morning. The city of Memphis sold two public parks with Confederate monuments to a non-profit organization in a massive, months-long operation to dismantle the statues overnight.
For many black Americans, the move to strike Confederate images is a blow to the oppressive daily memories of the Southern Civil War's intent to own slaves.
In Virginia, Franklin County's school board voted unanimously on Monday to ban the display of the Confederate flag in accordance with the school's dress code. Penny Blue, a black woman and a member of the Franklin County School Board, called for a flag ban in January. She says the board was only moved to act after Floyd's death.
"It is sad that it cost the terrible murder of a black man on national television and protests ... before they actually listen," she says.
Jon Atchue, a member of the school board who is white and supports the ban, says that those who say he is too sensitive are unaware of the history of violence against blacks. Atchue said that many black students growing up and hearing stories from members of the Ku Klux Klan who terrorize their ancestors while wearing the flag would be afraid to see the picture on the school grounds. The clan was launched by Confederate veterans.
In this file photo dated June 27, 2015, Bree Newsome from Charlotte, NC, climbs a flagpole to remove the Confederate flag from a Confederate memorial outside the statehouse in Columbia, SC, after nine black parishioners in a Charleston Church were killed, South Carolina did what many thought would never happen: it moved the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds.
"If you're scared and don't feel safe, it will affect the educational process," Atchue says.
For some Southerners, the backlash against confederate symbols is not a good thing. A NASCAR driver, Ray Ciccarelli, announced on Wednesday that he would quit the decision at the end of the season.
"I would be less interested in the Confederate flag," he wrote on Facebook. "But there are people who do that, and that doesn't make them racists."
Paul Gramling, commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group dedicated to the history of the Confederates, described NASCAR's ban on the Confederate flag as a slap in the face of the Confederate soldiers who helped build the sport, and complained about the African American Will Never be satisfied until all traces of the southern heritage have disappeared.
"We just wanted to be left alone and the north would not leave us alone," says Gramling. "They keep addressing this and causing problems that cause us to stand and defend what our ancestors did."
An image of George Floyd is projected onto the base of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue on Monday June 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.
The Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans recently offered a $ 2,000 reward to anyone who has information about damaged Confederate monuments in Georgia. According to Gramling, lawmakers or business leaders who ban Confederate images to promote inclusiveness only create more racist tensions.
"Every time you take away or attack someone's legacy, especially the legacy of the South, you won't befriend him," he says.
Greet relatives, but not the inheritance
Southerners who want to honor ancestors who fought in the civil war have the right to do so in a private setting, but those who were oppressed by it to impose symbols of the Confederacy are not right, says Karen Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of "Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and Conservation of the Confederate Culture".
Cox explains that in the decades following the civil war, the Confederation daughters' goal was not only to lion the struggling parents and grandparents, but also to reaffirm the Confederate principles through these honors.
"Some will say that the monuments are not about white dominance, but if you read the speeches made during the ceremonies, and even some plaques themselves, some say that these veterans accepted the war conditions, but as a result, they rose to defend Anglo-Saxon supremacy, ”she says. "There is no doubt what that means."
A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis lies on the street after protesters demolished it in Richmond, Virginia on June 10, 2020.
Cox points out that for decades, many white Southerners have been trying to exterminate what they see as embarrassing symbols of a part of the country they love. Today's movement will encourage such collaboration.
It warns that measures against Confederate monuments and symbols are not only more likely to be found in urban centers, but also easier to adopt in certain countries.
"What happens in Virginia doesn't happen in Mississippi," she says. "The indictment will be difficult for some because it is a struggle for their identity as white Southerners."
But the tenor of that time is so great that Mississippi may change, the cradle of some of the harshest civil rights protests in the 1960s. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is arguing over the votes needed to remove the Confederate flag from the Mississippi state flag.
Ultimately, white Southerners have been living with black Southerners for centuries - first as slaves and then as free men and women. By adhering to symbolic totems of a slave-owned American South, white Southerners are ignoring neighbors' painful struggle for basic human and civil rights, says Dewey Clayton, professor of political science at the University of Louisville.
"After the end of the civil war in 1865, many southern states had a significant African American population," said Clayton. "When they talk about the pride of the south and the heritage of the south, they refuse to acknowledge that many of the taxpayers in these particular states have not supported the Confederate flag and what it stood for."
According to Clayton, Confederate statues and flags can not only make black Americans feel insecure, but also other minority groups. The time to sell such icons is now, he says.
"What do we teach our children?" he says. “When they grow up, they see these symbols of hate and they see them all over the public place. We are sending you the wrong message. "
Former Mayor Landrieu says he is optimistic that the Americans are finally ready to have an open and honest conversation about racism.
"I think this country must have a settlement, a collective settlement, that what we have done in the past is wrong, that what we have done in the past has ramifications and must commit to change," he says. "We have to make a point and look at it and fix it. Many whites think that racism is only when you walk down the street and call an African American a bad name."
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Confederate statues, flags that are prohibited when the movement of the Black Lives Matter grows
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