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Historic meaning of the Confederate flag still strong

Jason Pressberg / Columnist

The Confederate flag is still a symbol of southern pride. Visiting Wal-Mart, you'll find it on bumper stickers, hats and t-shirts of the local Elon and Burlington customers that shop there. Many Elon students also have Confederate flag bumper stickers and paraphernalia.

Ask anyone who has this symbol, and they'll most likely tell you it has something to do with "southern pride." But if you're a Northerner like me, you might become uneasy by this.

No matter where you grew up, you will very likely receive an extremely biased education, especially regarding the Civil War. The New York public school district that I was taught in left me with the impression that it was a battle between the North, the good guys, and the South, the bad guys. The Northerners were abolitionists, fighting from the good of their hearts to end slavery. The Southerners were the cruel masters of the slaves, fighting to keep their wicked slavery ideals.

I also came to college thinking the Confederate flag was and is an evil symbol of hate. (Obviously, I was in for a rude awakening when I came to Elon.) But to the Southerners I've met that identify with it, they think of the flag as a symbol of the joys and values of being Southern. Many of these qualities, like common courtesy, are some of the things that are so refreshing about the South compared to New York. It's not that people aren't nice in the North; they just don't care to be.

But the flag will never be an acceptable symbol, neither to Northerners, civil rights activists, or African-Americans. Sure, the flag no longer means the enforcement of slavery to most of the Southerners that associate with it, but some things will never change to those on the outside who view it.

After the Holocaust, there was a movement in America to change the Swastika, once an aboriginal symbol of peace, back into its original meaning. The symbol, it was claimed, was once a good symbol and could be used for good again. The movement died when it became apparent that the world would forever associate Swastika's with the Nazis, never again with anything to do with peace.

The Confederate flag, unfortunately, falls into the same category. You can try to change its meaning, but outsiders will always view it as a sign of hatred and bigotry.

This has real consequences, most notably in the Southern-dominated sport of Nascar. Blacks have been trying to be a part of the sport for years, but with symbols like the Confederate flag still prevalent at many Nascar races, it has been hard to stay focused. Why would anyone want to be a part of a system that encourages a racist flag to be flown at its events?

The Confederate flag has to go. There are many good qualities about the South, but there are other ways to glorify them than just this one. Its meaning has not and will not change: even if Southerners consider it to be just a symbol, it is still entrenched in racism.

Jason Pressberg is writing on behalf of D.E.E.P., Diversity Emerging Education Program.

Contact Jason Pressberg at pendulum@elon.edu or 278-7247.