Time to set record straight on Confederate Flag ban
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010
Updated: Thursday, October 21, 2010 21:10
At least I know you're reading.
Last week, I tackled a somewhat sensitive issue in this area of the nation, the use of the Confederate flag. The point was that the flag should be banned by West Virginia University and its employees.
Putting it lightly, some people disagreed.
After many posts on The Daily Athenaeum's website, a few tweets and two response columns that all essentially attempted to take me to task, I have decided to continue with this constructive dialogue.
In listening to the arguments of those who disagree; I have essentially found three lines of logic – fringe players who are truly ignorant of any relevant information on the topic, people who argue that the Civil War wasn't about slavery and people who are making the "free speech" argument.
While the first two are absurd, the last is a popular argument that is incomplete and lacking in any basis in reality.
First, some people are just fringe players.
These people are truly intolerant and ignorant. Their opinions are theirs to have, but when attempting to be reasonable and level-headed, there is no sense bothering with them.
For example, I was sent a Facebook message by one of these people over the course of the last week.
His message read, "The rebel flag should not be banned from the University. Stop trying to make everything politically correct. Why don't you push for the gays to stop flying their rainbow flag?"
After an initial chuckle, I realized that a great deal of people actually would find that a valid argument.
It's not. At all.
The gay community, to the best of my knowledge, has never enslaved an entire race of people. They didn't treat other humans as sub-human pieces of property, either.
In fact, they are generally persecuted today by many of the same people who proudly wave the Confederate flag.
So, putting those two flags on the same level is somewhere below logical.
Second, there have been a few people that have made the argument that the Civil War was not about slavery.
I understand the argument. States rights, different cultures and economic bases were the underlying issues.
However, what one issue encompassed all three?
The states wanted individual states rights in order to preserve the institution of slavery.
The culture of the South was based around the idea that African-Americans were sub-humans who didn't have rights. They were property.
Finally, the South wanted to protect an economy that made slaves do all the work, while land owners reaped all the benefits.
People who are naive enough to actually believe the Civil War wasn't about slavery have been listening to Rush Limbaugh so long their brains and mouth, just like his, are no longer connected.
The final argument I heard is by far the most common and legitimate. Banning of the Confederate flag by the University is in violation of our freedom of speech.
However, for far too long people have had a fundamental misunderstanding of freedom of speech.
It is true that people have a constitutional right to say whatever they want. But that is only half the story.
With any freedom or right, also comes personal responsibility. If a person is allowed to say whatever he or she want, they must also understand there are consequences for those words or actions.
If a resident assistant displays the Confederate flag on his or her door, the University has a separate right to decide whether or not you are an acceptable employee.
A person has many qualified rights of speech.
If a person wanted to yell "fire" in a theater, he or she could. However, that person must also understand that saying that is going to put a great deal of people in danger, and they are probably going to be arrested for that action.
So, to all those who insist on waving the Confederate flag, I encourage you to do so proudly if that is what you truly believe in.
That is your right.
However, if you work for this University, you must realize that your freedom of speech is not a magical phrase that keeps you from being punished.
That flag is divisive.
It alienates students.
It has no business within this University. Period.