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Debate: Banning the confederate flag

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Background and Context of Debate:

The American Civil War of 1861-65 saw three million men fight the only war to take place on American soil between Americans, with 600,000 casualties resulting from heavy fighting that featured the first appearance of the trench in modern warfare. The war occurred after the Democratic party lost control of the national government (particularly, the Senate) to the new Republican party, at a time of tremendous tension in American politics between those who wished the newly created states of the West to be ‘slaveholding’ (thus maintaining a balance between ‘slave’ and ‘free’ states in the Senate) and those that thought they should be ‘free’. The secessionist southern states (in order of seccession) South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, Missouri and Kentucky, are represented by the thirteen stars on the Confederate flag. The Confederacy sought to establish its own government under President Jefferson Davis, at their capital of Richmond, Virginia. Though often militarily more sophisticated, the South – under the brilliant generalship of Robert E Lee – was worn down by the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by the North in personnel and industrial capacity. Surrender in 1865 was followed by a plethora of punitive measures against the ‘slave’ states, who were readmitted to the Union against the wishes of many of their citizens. The right to display the Confederate flag is an enormous issue in the Southern states of the USA, especially in schools. Thousands of students have been sent home from school because they’ve been wearing clothing displaying the Confederate ‘battle flag;’ many such incidents have resulted in legal disputes. The South Carolina case of Dr. Winston McCuen v. St. Joseph High School, involving a teacher sacked for refusing to remove the flag from the wall of his classroom and consequently neglecting to observe the Pledge of Allegience, has acted as a focal point for,

Argument #1


The rebel flag's modern association with white supremacists makes it a flashpoint for racial confrontation: Many support the viewpoint of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, who hold that it is unreasonable to ask African Americans not to react to someone wearing the rebel flag. To ask black people to respect a flag that was flown by a group whose political priority was their desire to totally subjugate and dehumanise them is unreasonable.


It is a freedom of speech and expression right to bear the confederate flag: First Amendment rights are being trampled in the name of political correctness. This is one of the reasons why the American Civil Liberties Union opposes any plans to ban the practice. It is especially unreasonable when other flags - those of Iraq or Palestine, for example, highly contentious symbols themselves - are not subject to such bans. Furthermore, slaves were brought to the USA on ships sailing under the Stars and Stripes - there is no suggestion that that should be banned; rather, in many states the national flag is present by statutory requirement in every public building.

Cultural value? Is there no positive symbolic and cultural value to the confederate flag?


The Confederate flag is inherently racist in its symbolism: Why should the Confederate flag be regarded any differently from the swastika? Those who fly it are proclaiming their support for racist principles that belong in the past.

The Confederate flag has not been a consistent cultural fixture of the South: It did not enjoy renewed popularity until the civil rights era of the 1960s, when it became a symbol of opposition to the movement.


The Confederate flag is an important symbol of Southern culture and solidarity: In a nation that encourages minorities to celebrate their own cultures more and more, to demand a cessation of such celebration regarding the culture of the South (of which this is the most vivid symbol) is little short of perverse. The Confederate flag forms a significant element of several state flags, Georgia’s being a prominent example. As such it means more than Confederacy of the past - it also means pride in the south of the present. Slavery ended nearly 150 years ago; the flag means something very different to the people that proudly display it now. A comparison with Nazism is both repulsive and unfair.

In schools: Are there reasons within the school environment to ban the confederate flag?


Schools should be able to outlaw this flag just as they might ban gang colours or miniskirts: all are disruptive to the school learning environment. The mass production of clothing aimed at the student market by companies like Dixie Outfitters exploits bad feelings amongst ethnic groups and encourages clashes between them.


Regional pride in one's own community has value as compared to the other banned practices in schools under discussion: This is very different from the other ‘disruptive’ influences identified here. They have no positive contribution. On the other hand, pride in one’s region is a legitimate, even laudable passion. This is an attempt to refute Southern heritage; it shouldn’t be allowed in schools or anywhere else. In 1969 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District that school officials could not prohibit students from wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War - why can’t students show their support for their home?

Argument #4


Those who wish to flaunt the Confederate flag in public are backward-looking, rejecting the diversity and dynamism of the “new South” that has developed since the civil rights era. By persistently promoting a divisive symbol, they undermine continuing efforts at integration and generate negative views of the South in the rest of the nation and internationally, reducing investment and prosperity.


It is discriminatory to ban Confederate symbols because they do not fit in with some people’s views of what the South should be like. Southerners who respect their Confederate heritage and wish to preserve traditional ways are now an embattled group, assaulted by politically correct liberals and others who want to publicise their own minority rights agenda. If we value diversity and respect each other’s cultures, why should that of the old South be uniquely singled out for attack? If others did not claim to be offended by traditional symbols, then there would be no negative publicity.



  • This house would ban the Confederate flag
  • This house would fly a flag against racism

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