The Confederate Flag Flap
In South Carolina, the Confederate flag flies over the State capitol. It was the flag of the Confederate States of America, which fought against the Union, the rest of the United States of America during the Civil War or War Between the States or War for Southern Independence during 1861-1865.
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Southerners have felt themselves a region with a distinct dialect and culture since before independence in 1776. It was a plantation and slave economy, which exported agriculture to Europe. The northern States erected tariffs to protect their industries from competition in Europe, making manufactured goods more expensive in the South. The tariff issue, along with the slavery issue, led to political conflicts. Then came the War, with a crushing defeat for the South and the destruction of the Southern economy.
The battle flag of the confederacy, shown above, became a symbol of Southern heritage, history, and culture, at least for Whites. The Confederate flag was also used by White racist groups and became for Blacks a symbol of slavery, segregation, racism, and opposition to civil liberties and political equality.
Many African Americans now want the Confederate flag to be taken down from the State capitol of South Carolina. The confederate flag also decorates many buildings and monuments in the South, and some African Americans would like those too to be removed. But many Caucasian Southerners want to retain these as symbols of their cultural and historical heritage.
The typical political resolution would either keep the flags and symbols or take them down. There would be a winner and a loser. It would be a zero-sum game: the gain to one would equal the loss to the other. The loser would likely not quit the game, but try for another round or go underground.
Economists do not like zero-sum games. The zero-sum solution is often, so to say, uneconomical. Economists see the possibility of gains due to differing interests which provide opportunity for one side to have a large gain without so much loss for the other.
So it is for the Confederate flag flap. What is it that African Americans of good will really want? It is equality and the absence of racial hatred and oppression. An economic solution would be for the South to adopt another flag, an African-American Freedom Flag (AAFF), such as:
Wherever the Confederate flag flies or is inscribed and attached to buildings and monuments, the AAFF would be there also. The AAFF would fly proudly as a symbol of Black liberation from slavery, segregation, and inequality. Flying next to the Confederate flag, the AAFF would symbolize the political equality of African Americans and declare that the Confederate flag is not flying by itself as a symbol of slavery or racial hatred. The Confederate flag would fly side by side with African-American liberation.
On a pole where one flag must fly over another, there would be a joint flag, the Confederate part on one half and the AAFF on the other. The White Southerners would keep their historical symbol of their culture and heritage, but shared with the Black symbol of freedom.
There could be a contest sponsored by the governments of all the States of the Confederacy to design an African-American Freedom Flag. There are already flags representing African Americans, two of them illustrated above - see African-American flags. The flag contest should be voted on by African Americans in their local communities and the votes passed up through State organizations to a Southern African-American Council elected from the Southern State Councils, which would make the final choice, the result of a bottom-up voting process.
This economic solution would not give some Blacks their full demand to eradicate the Confederate symbol from all official showings, but it would address the key interest of Southern Blacks, the removal of symbols of racial oppression and hatred. For when the AAFF flies next to the Confederate flag, the symbolism becomes one of freedom and equality. Both sides would have their key desire. The Southern Whites would have their heritage, and the Blacks would have their equality and liberty.
This win-win solution would reduce if not eliminate the resentment and hostility that comes with win-lose solutions. So letís put it on the table for discussion - an African-American Freedom Flag to fly equally with the Confederate Flag.
-- Fred Foldvary
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Copyright 2000 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.