Danny Cardwell's picture

    Yes, Confederate Statues Are Racist Symbols

    Photo Courtesy of Allison Wrabel

    If you live in the Commonwealth of Virginia and were able to enjoy Mother's Day without having to engage in a serious dialog about the white supremacists, Alt-Right Fascists, Neo-Nazis, and the Klan carrying torches in Charlottesville then you were the beneficiary of a gift many people of color didn't receive. The torch lighting ceremony happened the same day the president, who emboldened many them, gave the commencement address at Liberty University- less than 100 miles away. People think I'm talking about a historical period when I tell them I live in the heart of the Confederacy, but since the murder of the AME Emmanuel 9, and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state house, there's been a pronounced increase in Confederate flag regalia and white aggression. This weekend in Virginia was indicative of the advantageous societal predisposition white skin affords. Some people miss the point in discussions about privilege because they think there's a big tangible purchase they haven't received, but too often they ignore, or take for granted, the daily subtleties afforded to them.

    I was hesitant to write another article about xenophobia (disguised as economic nationalism) and the racial hostilities perpetrated in the name of God by southern "Christians", but events like these deserve a full throated dissent. What happened less than 100 miles from my house in a city I've given talks in was active racism in our streets. This wasn't a peaceful rally. This was a gathering designed to instill fear. This was hate in our streets and there's no moral equivalence to any of the protest movements we've seen over the last few years. It's not racist when Black people protest because our unarmed brothers and sisters are being murdered by the police. It's not racist when people of color want their children to be treated fairly by law enforcement. It's not racist when people of color demand full access to all of the things citizenship purchases in America, but it is racist when avowed white supremacists gather to talk eugenics while chanting, "All White Lives Matter". The fact that people of color have to keep delineating between what is and what isn't racist is a testament to how invested some of our fellow citizens are in remaining willfully ignorant about race in America.

    Being Black in the Blue Ridge Mountains means that I’m often the only Black man in a grocery store, restaurant, or public event. When you're Black in a community like this there's no hiding from race. There’s no amount of denial that can change the reality you find yourself in: you can't escape it. The Stars and Bars, Confederate statues, and the almost weekly Civil War reenactments are daily reminders of America’s dark ages. People of color are asked to make snap judgments about the intentions of people who have admiration for symbols synonymous with Black oppression. This is the equivalence of asking the Jewish community to pick out the good guy with a Swastika tattoo, yet this is how the heritage/hate argument functions when reduced to its simplest terms. Tearing down Confederate statues is a meaningless gesture if we leave the system of white supremacy in place they commemorate.

    There are some white people who think of themselves as "good" because they don't engage in overt racism, but what they fail to realize is that willfully ignoring racism is tacit approval of racist behavior. Donald Trump was able to mobilize and activate white supremacists because there wasn't enough tangible outrage at the words he was using. The right tolerated the racist climate his campaign created because they needed the votes; this same quest for power has caused factions inside the progressive left to believe they can find common ground with avowed white supremacists. This could become the new normal because conservatives don't want to alienate a key portion of their constituency, and the left is too busy trying to court them. In the meantime, people of color are forced to deal with increasing racial aggressions.


    Danny, thank you so very much for this post. It has been very disheartening to see people on the Left argue for appeasement with white supremacists. Voting rights are under direct assault. The DOJ does not consider police abuse an important issues. Blacks who complain are accused of playing "identity politics". This charge even comes from the Left. Thanks again for this post.

    I remember going up the the Poconos to visit Pennsylvania wine country. We ate at a local restaurant. I black women who had just moved to the area with her husband and family literally came running towards use because she was so glad to see other blacks faces, thinking that we lived in the area.

    We were in Harrisonburg for a family event when I heard about the rally. I thought it would be a few locals venting. I was genuinely surprised by the turnout. This is setting up to be a potentially dangerous summer.

    I'm familiar with Massanutten resort just outside of Harrisonburg. Haven't been there for a while.

    I hate confederate symbols.  I don't see how one can interpret, as anything but racist, a flag that was created to rally troops to kill and die in order that rich white people could own blacks.  The same goes for a statue of a confederate soldier - even one of ole 'Marse Robert.'  I'd like to see a federal law that prevents any government - state, county, local, etc. - from flying it.  Even though I'm a believer in free speech, I am open to arguments that the confederate flag should be banned.

    When I was 21, I worked as a ski lift operator in Steamboat Springs, CO, for the Steamboat Mountain Corporation.  Nearly all of the hundreds of staff there was white, there were definitely some Asian-Americans - including a few of the ski instructors.  There was a black ski instructor and I believe the kitchen staff included Latinos.  But, if memory serves me correctly, 90% or more of the employees were white.  In the break room at my work station, I was on the gondola crew (all white) at the base of the mountain, somebody had stood a confederate flag in the corner.  This was not visible to the public.

    Within a few days, I complained to my supervisor Clark.  Clark wasn't a bad guy.  In fact I still remember some stuff he taught me about life.  But on this issue he just didn't give a crap.  I tried to rally my co-workers to the cause of removing the flag.  I said (paraphrasing) hey that's a symbol of slavery and racism.  We're not southerners here.  Let's get rid of this hateful flag.

    I still remember one of the guys, whom I liked, saying to me - Hal, for us that flag isn't about racism.  It's about us being rebels.  It's about how we're the first on the mountain and the last to leave and how we get crapped on every time something goes wrong because they need us to get the paying customers up and down the mountain and if there's a problem, the Steamboat Corporation loses money.

    I didn't buy that argument but I wasn't about to convince him or anybody else there.  I don't remember any other overt acts or words of racism among my crew or other employees or supervisors.

    I think we should keep this issue front and center but we have to recognize that other people just aren't going to see it this way.

    Could the black ski instructor put up pictures of Reverend Louis Farrakhan or Malcolm X?

    He could and he could take his case to the EEOC if it he was harassed any more than Hal harassed the guy with the Confederate flag. Everybody gets to or nobody gets to.

    What the guy with the flag was doing was trolling. Don't you realize that you are getting into culture wars issues and that is a notorious tool of the GOP since the Reagan years to distract people from the things they are capable of changing?

    You can't legislate stopping people's hatred. You can only legislate their actions. That's the place of pop culture, changing culture: making it uncool to sport a confederate flag or support of Farrakhan in society at large. If your hate is uncool, you show it only in the privacy of your own home or are labeled an outcast, you're ashamed to show it in public. This is the work of culture, not politics or law.

    I simply asked.if the only black guy in the place could equally express himself. I don't believe that he could without needing a government agency to intervene. You are a lot more trusting.

    I viewed this CSPAN presentation concerning Confederate Monuments.


    James Loewen is a Professor of history and demonstrates that the Civil War was all about slavery.

    He is funny and learned and he points out that these stupid monuments were erected during a revisionist period beginning in 1890.

    States Rights and tarriffs and...it is all bullshite.

    The south seceded because of threats against slavery.

    Just read the speeches presented just prior to the Civil War from the Southern Traitors.

    Hell, go back to John C. Calhoun.

    If you are going to talk symbols like old statues and protests about them by troglodyte racist nuts, it's only fair to note that there are other symbols operating in our pop culture as well that show that Southern culture is not all jumping on the bandwagon of the confederacy.

    from just some website ran across "Bustle" appears to be for woman of color, and yes I do ascribe Beauty Pageants as a big thing in the former Confederate states

    The Miss USA 2017 Top 10 Was Majority WOC & Here's What That Meant To A Black Woman Watching At Home

    Watching pageants like Miss USA 2017 is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me.  The women are impossibly stunning, the dresses are glamorous, and the commentary is delightfully cheesy. I usually spend most of the time reading snarky tweets and half-heartedly glancing at the screen.

    That said, I almost jumped off my couch when I saw the top 10 finalists announced on May 14 during the 2017 Miss USA pageant. The judges chose five black women, one Indian woman, and a woman of indigenous heritage — in other words, 70 percent of the finalists were women of color.

    When Miss District of Columbia Kára McCullough was crowned Miss USA a bit later, I couldn't handle it. Seeing a woman of color with a natural hairstyle being crowned by last year's winner — a woman of color who wore her hair in a natural style for the pageant in honor of her mother — felt incredibly symbolic. It's hard to describe the emotions involved [.....]

    I checked for more on Miz McCullogh, she was Miz DC, she works as a chemist for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She was born in Naples, Italy and grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She seems to be quite socially conservative though she walked back her remarks about health care not being a right but a privilege.

    The judges were multi-culti rainbow.

    Seems to me the old Confederacy fans are kicking and screaming about some statues because they have little else of it left. Need I remind that the current president is a big fan of beauty pageants?

    Saw a Tweet to the effect that Berlin has no Nazi statues or monuments, but does have a Holocaust museum and thought back to a reporting trip I took to Germany back in 2001, where I was surrounded by a lot of other 20 somethings.  They were, actually, fairly vocal about not wishing to be held responsible for the sins of their grandparents but, at the same time, claimed no pride or heritage in what had happened. In fact, their argument for their own clemency was rooted in their total rejection of what had come before.

    You cannot have it both ways.

    Which brings us to another point -- if people want to have pride in southern heritage, why not pick a more modern and inclusive south to have pride in?  Why specifically choose an era marked by barbarity unless it suits you?

    There are days when living here is like a racist episode of The Twilight Zone. It's emotionally exhausting having to decipher racism for people who are convinced the daily aggressions people of color face are the result of a mass delusion. 

    The most fun is when they explain "racism" to you.

    Danny, call them "loser statues",  puts them and their supporters in proper perspective.

    Danny, you have to read NOLA Mayor Mitch Landrieu's powerful speech about the meaning of the statues. The statues celebrate a fictionalized history of the South ignoring the savagery that those statues represent. The speech is a masterpiece.


    Ah, you beat me to it - got distracted posting something else.... ;-)  Work of art. In the Dark Days of The Shire, very refreshing to see someone can still orate.

    BTW - Clarence Thomas finally did something useful & joined liberals in knocking down North Carolina's bad attempt at gerrymandering? Well, the rapture is certainly near, and Hell's reporting sleet and foul weather. More from the LA Times.

    I read a 19th century guy who said we can admire those who fought on the wrong side on the grounds that "he was mistaken, but he was great". That doesn't seem to be the prevailing view today. Many say that even those who were supposedly on the right side--Washington, Jefferson, Madison--should be denied honor or commemoration because of their slave-holding. I don't know.

    Much of the backlash against the Confederacy nostalgia has been that proponents argued that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. This flies in the face of the rationale for separation written by leaders of the Confederacy. Confederate flags wound up on many state lands as a direct response to the Civil Rights movement. Murdered like Dylan Roof have no problem using Confederate paraphernalia as symbols to support their racist hatred. The story told about the Confederacy became a pack of lies. 

    Not even any of my white friends have the sense to figure out that tearing these statues down means nothing; racism is in people not inanimate objects. Do I agree with leaving statues up? Not necessarily. But I haven't paid much attention to them over the years.

    The first true step is choosing the correct politicians and other public servants. That way we can push out racism by way of indirect policies, laws, and law enforcement officers who won't put up with all that nonsense. Teaching children is another enormous way to rid the minds of tainted thoughts. That's how things progress. Not by violent leftist parties who want people to think exactly like them, nor allow people on the right to even speak in public because they disagree with their policy beliefs. See how dangerous an evolving society can still be? 


    "The right" was marching through the streets with semiautomatic weapons, torches, swastikas, shields, helmets, confederate flags, Trump gear while chanting "blood and soil" from the Hitler era and "Jews will not replace us". Then one executed a terror attack with a car.

    "Inanimate objects" can serve as rallying points, and incite racism and violence, which is why Germany banned swastikas, deaths head symbols and SS uniforms and runes and Nazi flags. 

    If moving the statues means nothing to you and your friends, good, because a lot of people think otherwise and want them gone.

    Latest Comments