Let’s be crystal-clear about this: if you put any word other than “Black” in front of the words “Lives Matter”, you are creating a problem. At the very best, you’re misappropriating the name of a movement that protests the violence disproportionately thrown down on people of color by law enforcement and vigilantes. That’s not nice; you shouldn’t take the name of their movement to advance your own cause. At the very worst, you’re being really, really racist.
Some people hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and assume that it’s racist, as if the leaders of the movement have no regard for non-black folks. Actually, the phrase doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter. All lives are important, yes, and in a perfect world everybody would recognize that. Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal. While we may profess with our lips that all people are created equal, our actions as a society indicate that we believe otherwise. That’s why “Black Lives Matter” exists. If you’re white, straight, Christian, etc, in America, nobody needs to be reminded of the importance of your life – it is taken as self-evident. But if you’re black, it wouldn’t hurt for people – particularly law enforcement officers – to be reminded that you are also a human being, deserving of the same basic dignity and respect we theoretically afford to all humans.
As spiteful as it is to co-opt the “Black Lives Matter” title to support a different agenda, it’s particularly hateful to replace the word “Black” with “Confederate”.
For one – and this really ought not have to be pointed out – there are no more Confederate lives. The war’s long done. The Confederacy is extinct. If the Confederacy lives on, it’s only in the hearts of people who sympathize with the Confederate cause, which was closely tied to the institution of slavery.
We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating: the Confederacy was a racism-motivated regime, and the Confederate battle flag is a racist symbol! Of course it is. This point is beyond legitimate debate. The Confederate battle flag was stitched and flown by people who made no secret of their belief that black people were inferior to white people, and that they ought to be kept as slaves. After the Confederacy was defeated and re-absorbed into the United States, their flags might never again have seen the light of day, had they not been resurrected during the civil rights movements by white segregationists. The Confederate battle flag was revived as an immutable symbol of anti-black racism. It continues to be flown by people who wish to ignore that racism was a major cause – nay, the central cause – of the conflict that spawned it. It is an unfortunate part of Southern heritage, but not one we should celebrate.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Southern pride, per se. If you’re a Southerner and proud of it, then I say “Good for you”, as long as you are aware that the book of Southern Heritage has some awfully dark chapters. If you construct a flag depicting a plate of grits and a glass of iced sweet tea, I will gladly wave it for you (although, I should point out that I’m somewhat atypical as a Southerner in that I do not enjoy either of those fares). I have no problem with anybody expressing a well-tempered degree of regional pride, but I strongly disagree that the Confederate battle flag is the appropriate symbol of that pride.
I’d like to conclude by addressing the first statement made by this odious meme: “It Ain’t Coming Down”. I have a couple of relevant videos. I’ll just leave them right here.
In South Carolina, at least, it came down. Twice.