There is a great deal of controversy in the U.S. whenever someone flies the Confederate flag. For some, the flag represents family heritage and honor. Yet, many others disagree and see it as a symbol of racism, white supremacy and hate speech.
Regardless of how one feels about it, the display of the Confederate flag should not be outlawed on private property. Flying the flag does not necessarily make its owner a proponent of hate speech anymore than wearing a Che Guevara shirt makes its owner an anti-capitalist revolutionary.
In Summerville, S.C., Annie Caddell still flies her Confederate flag outside her house. It is barely visible behind the 8-foot high fences built earlier this year, which were paid for by money raised by her neighbors to “mediate the flag’s influence,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
Vandalism and a petition for its removal signed by 200 residents did not convince her to remove her flag. Caddell “tearfully testified that she’s not a racist” at the town meeting regarding the petition, according to the AP. The fences were erected after a year of protests.
Germans might sympathize with some of Caddell’s angrier neighbors – displaying any Nazi insignia or flags are crimes punishable by up to three years in prison, according to Time. For Germans, the Nazi flag brings painful memories and should not be legally allowed to fly.
Other neighbors, such as Patterson James, say they can’t stop Caddell from posting the Confederate flag on her private property. “She can do what she wants to do in her yard, but I don’t share her beliefs,” James said to the AP.
Public opinion over displaying the Confederate flag is mixed. According to the AP, the University of Mississippi Student Body Association passed a resolution discouraging Confederate flag display in 1997. In contrast, there is a Confederate flag on a Confederate War memorial adjacent to the South Carolina state capitol.
The world’s largest Confederate flag flies over the junction of Interstates 75 and 4, just miles away from campus.
The fundamentals of the Constitution clearly offer the First Amendment right to freedom of expression to all citizens. Because of the Civil War, those rights are unilateral, regardless of race, gender or popular opinion.
Attempting to criminalize the flag, much like the Nazi symbol in Germany, would be a large step backward for America and a disservice to all, regardless of whether they came from the North or the South.
The Civil War was a dark period in U.S. history, so much so that more than 145 years after the Confederacy was dissolved in 1865, the pain of transgressions waged against countrymen is still evident in volatile discussions of Caddell’s backyard.
Banning the flag whitewashes the truth, and makes forgetting its importance all the more probable.