It is both natural and appropriate to honor one's ancestors and to be proud of one's community. But the Confederate flag does not honor either ancestors or community.
When a person says, "The Confederate flag stands for Southern pride," ask that person, "Does the flag represent the pride of all races in the South? Or does it stand only for the pride of white persons?"
When a person says, "The Confederate flag honors our ancestors," ask that person, "Does the flag honor your ancestors who were slaves? Or does it only honor those who might own slaves?"
When a person says, "The Confederacy stood for state's rights," ask that person, "Did the people who embraced that flag believe that States had the right to refuse to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act, or that the territories could ban slavery from their soil? Or did they contend that they had a constitutional right to bring their slaves into every territory of the United States, and that they had the right to pursue and seize their escaped slaves from any State?" (Prigg v. Pennsylvania (1842); Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)).
When a person says, "Why shouldn't we fly the Confederate flag in South Carolina or Texas or Virginia," ask that person, "Are you not an American first?"
When a person says, "Why should you concern yourself with what happens in our community," we should respond as Martin Luther King, Jr., responded to the white ministers of Birmingham, Alabama, who had castigated him and other members of the Civil Rights Movement as "outside agitators." King responded:
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." ... I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.By way of analogy, it is appropriate for German citizens to honor their ancestors who fought in World War II. But that does not mean it is appropriate to display the Nazi swastika. To honor the courage and sacrifices of one's ancestors is one thing. To honor the cause that they fought for is quite another.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
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