Just Seeing the Confederate Flag Triggers Racism, Research Says

The Confederate flag is probably the most racially divisive symbol in American history. Now research is showing how just being exposed to the flag widens the racial divide.

Confederate battle flag
Confederate battle flag | Source

What most people today know simply as the Confederate flag is actually the battle flag under which Confederate general Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia fought against the United States during the Civil War. Although it was never adopted as the official flag of the Confederacy, it has become the representative emblem of all that the Southern states that seceded from the Union stood for.

In more recent times, the Confederate flag has also been adopted by many who vehemently oppose equal citizenship for African Americans. Thus, it has been a rallying point for organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist groups, and others who forthrightly proclaim their unwavering resistance to racial integration and equal rights for black Americans.

A symbol of Southern pride?

Still, many of those who proudly fly the Confederate flag today insist that it represents their heritage as descendants of gallant soldiers who heroically fought in Confederate gray for what they believed in. They vehemently deny that their beloved banner has any associations with racist beliefs.

Flag at United Confederate Veterans reunion in Marianna, Florida, 1927
Flag at United Confederate Veterans reunion in Marianna, Florida, 1927 | Source

Others, however, including most African Americans, see the Confederate flag as representing only slavery, prejudice, oppression, and racism.

Poll

Do you think the Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride or of anti-black racism?

See results without voting

Are negative reactions to the Confederate flag just a matter of opinion?

Typically, those who support the public display of the Confederate flag insist that people who take offense at such displays are simply expressing what is nothing more than their opinion. But, flag supporters say, those who honor that banner have their own opinion, and have a free-speech right to express that opinion by continuing to fly the flag, even on public land and over government-owned facilities in states such as Mississippi (where the Confederate flag is embedded in the state flag) and South Carolina.

Who is right? Does the symbolism represented by the Confederate flag exist purely in the eye of the beholder? Or is there some objective basis for determining whether that banner does or does not represent racism at its worst? Recent scientific research is providing an answer to that question.

VIDEO: A quick history of the Confederate flag

Research shows that just seeing the Confederate flag triggers racist reactions

In 2008 a team of researchers, led by Dr. Joyce Ehrlinger, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Florida State University, conducted two separate experiments to determine how the Confederate flag impacts racial attitudes. According to Dr. Ehrlinger, the results, reported in the journal Political Psychology, indicate that exposure to the Confederate flag “may actually provoke discrimination—even among people who are low in prejudice.”

Study #1 – The Confederate flag triggers racial bias in voting

The first of the two studies conducted by Dr. Ehrlinger and her team took advantage of the fact that a black man, Barack Obama, was a serious candidate for President of the United States in 2008.

In this experiment, the researchers employed 108 white and 22 black college students as subjects. Each person was seated at a computer screen and exposed subliminally to one of two images. The images were shown on their screens twenty times in 15-millisecond bursts. With that brief exposure, the subjects would not be consciously aware of seeing the image.

Half the subject group saw an image that consisted of a neutral design of colored lines. The other half were exposed to an image of the Confederate flag.

The students were then given a list of presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Barack Obama, and were asked to rate which of the four they were most likely to vote for.

Barack Obama campaigning in 2008
Barack Obama campaigning in 2008 | Source

The results of the experiment were stark.

White students who had been exposed to the Confederate flag were significantly less likely to choose Barack Obama than those who saw the neutral image.

— Research findings

The choices made by the black students were not influenced by whether or not they had seen the Confederate flag. Nor were the preferences of students of either race regarding the white candidates affected by seeing the flag.

But white students who had been exposed to the Confederate flag were significantly less likely to choose Barack Obama than those who saw the neutral image.

The result was the same whether the students identified themselves as liberal or conservative, or whether the student was from the South or the North. Nor was there any difference based on what the research report called the “pre-existing racial attitudes” of the students.

Simply being subliminally exposed, below the level of conscious awareness, to the Confederate flag caused the white students who saw it to be much less likely to vote for a black man as president.

Study #2 – The Confederate flag causes a more negative evaluation of black people

The second experiment was designed to determine whether exposure to the Confederate flag might influence the way whites perceive blacks.

In this study 116 white students were divided into two groups. Half were seated at desks where, they were told, someone from a previous unrelated study had left behind a folder on a corner of the desk. The folder had a sticker on it containing an image of the Confederate flag. The second group of students did not see the sticker. Then both groups were asked to read the story about “a young man named Robert who engaged in ambiguously negative and aggressive behavior.”

Source

The story was accompanied by a picture of Robert, who was black. The account said that Robert was refusing to pay his rent until his landlord painted his apartment. In another episode, Robert demanded that a store clerk refund money Robert had paid him.

After reading the story, the students were asked to assess Robert’s character, ranking him on the extent to which they considered him to be kind, aggressive, or selfish. They were then given a survey that aimed at measuring their general attitudes toward black people.

As with the first study, the results of this experiment were revealing. The students who were exposed to the folders with the Confederate flag stickers on them were significantly more negative in their rating of Robert than those who did not see the flag. Moreover, the effect of seeing the flag was the same whether the respondent’s pre-existing attitude toward black people was positive or negative.

The conclusion of the researchers when they evaluated the results of the two experiments was that:

“The automatic effects of Confederate flag exposure might lead even people low in prejudice to evaluate President Obama and other black targets in a more negative light.”

The research report goes on to say:

Whether or not the Confederate flag includes other nonracist meanings, exposure to this flag evokes responses that are prejudicial.

— Dr. Joyce Ehrlinger

Additional research confirms and extends Dr. Ehrlinger’s conclusions

In a 2010 Masters thesis that cites and builds on Dr. Ehrlinger’s work, Florida State student Corey Columb reports that the research

“demonstrates that exposure to the Confederate flag not only affects judgments, but behaviors such as retaliatory aggression. . . . exposure to the Confederate flag has a negative impact on judgments and behavior toward Black people.”

The importance of these findings

The research indicates that there are real-world, negative consequences to the display of the Confederate flag. Just by seeing that flag, many white Americans will be unconsciously influenced toward negative evaluations of black people, and may even be stimulated to behave more aggressively toward them.

Yet most Americans are entirely unaware of the effect the display of the Confederate flag may have on their own attitudes and those of others, and think of it as a more neutral or even positive symbol than the evidence shows it to be.

Surveys indicate that many Americans have been persuaded by advocates of the flag who claim it represents “heritage, not hate.” For example, a YouGov poll, conducted in March of 2015, indicates that at that time less than a third of respondents considered the Confederate flag to be a symbol of racism:

YouGov poll conducted March 24 - 26, 2015

The Confederate flag represents
Total
White
Black
Southern Pride
41%
47%
8%
Racism
31%
30%
55%
Neither
15%
14%
15%
Not sure
12%
10%
22%

The impact of such opinions is that until recently there has been little political support among the majority of citizens in the United States for removing the Confederate flag from display in public spaces.

However, in the aftermath of the racially motivated murders of nine African Americans during a Bible Study at Charleston, South Carolina’s Emanual AME Church in June of 2015, there has been a major increase in public pressure to remove the Confederate flag from display on publicly owned land. Even retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon, have pledged to no longer sell Confederate paraphernalia. Clearly, many Americans are beginning to realize that however sincere supporters of the flag may be in their protestations that it is a symbol of pride and heritage rather than of racial hatred, the fact is that this banner is inextricably linked, in the minds of most who see it, with prejudice and racism.

It is not yet clear whether there has been a real and permanent shift in attitudes about the flag, or if the tide running against it will ebb once the Charleston murders recede in public memory. The knowledge that the negative impact of the Confederate flag on African Americans and on race relations is not just a matter of opinion, but of hard, scientific fact, may help to cement that change.

© 2015 Ronald E. Franklin

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93 comments

emge profile image

emge 17 months ago from Abu Dhabi

I don't think its the flag that incites. The fact is the inherent dislike and bias of the white against the black is still there and will never go away.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

emge, what the research shows is that even people who do not otherwise see themselves as prejudiced are negatively influenced by seeing the Confederate flag. The flag, with its inherent associations with racial prejudice, apparently serves as a trigger to prime people with negative thoughts about blacks. There's a whole sociological literature about how this effect works. So yes, it is the flag.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Great article! This is the first I have seen that explores this aspect of the controversy. Very well done. Since the American Terrorist, Dylan Roof, desecrated the image of God x 9, I have heard some amazing apologies made for this flag. I have also heard reasons given why slavery wasn't so bad after all; I have been reminded that the North was just as racist, and also that African, and indigenous people have also owned slaves: ad nauseam! Obviously, all of these "historical facts" are supposed to somehow mitigate this most recent act of terrorism against the African in America.

It is enough to make a person ashamed of being human. I have seen more effort expended by people to defend a flag; an inanimate object, than to express their outrage at the killing of 9 people in a church, or the fact that the cops who arrested Dylan Roof saw fit to take him to Burger King to get a Whopper with Cheese, after he had murdered 9 people!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 17 months ago from Queensland Australia

I am not from the USA so I knew nothing about this flag before, Ron. Thank you for providing this interesting information. I feel it would be difficult to argue against the studies that you quote, and the fact it is used as a symbol by the KKK. I feel anything that that is even suspected of inciting racism should be seriously looked at and banned if deemed necessary. There has been a lot of discussion as to whether our national Australia flag should be changed to be more inclusive of Aboriginal Australians. There has been a call for people to submit alternative designs and there are some excellent ones among the candidates. Voted up.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, wrenchBiscuit. The key for me is that this data is not opinion but objective science. Most people consciously or subconsciously associate the Confederate flag with racism. And that's because of the "heritage" of human oppression that it represents. I'm hopeful that people of good will will conclude that this particular symbol is one we can do without.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you much, Jodah. I hope your country's discussion of your flag issue will be a lot more civil than it's been here!


Superkev profile image

Superkev 17 months ago

Would you agree with me then that the name of former Klansman and Democrat Senator Robert Byrd (D) West Virginia, should be removed from all roads, bridges and schools and other locations that currently bear his name?

Would you agree with me that seeing a person who was not only a member, but a leading light of a racist organization such as the KKK as well as filibustering the 1964 civil rights act while a Senator, honored in such a way would be equally as triggering to racism and racist actions?

Will you stand with me in demanding that his name be removed from all public spaces?


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 17 months ago from North Carolina, USA

If all sinners must be purged from our history, that leaves--nobody!


junecampbell profile image

junecampbell 17 months ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I am amazed. I would never have guessed at the subliminal effects. Knowing the study results, I would hope that the flag will come down and fly no more. It also makes me wonder if we are being manipulated subliminally in ways we can't imagine.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Superkev, I'm sure that over time, as people become more educated about what Sen. Byrd and others like him actually stood for, the kinds of changes you are speaking will take place. Thanks for reading.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

kschimmel, it's not a matter of expunging sinners and their sins from our history. In fact both should be remembered, but remembered honestly for what they were. Sin must be called sin, and not celebrated as if it was something admirable. And the sins of the past must not be allowed to continue wreaking havoc in our present and future. So, yes, let's not forget; let's remember and correct.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

junecampbell, yes, the subliminal aspect is very significant. It shows that the attitudes the Confederate flag feeds into are deep-seated, below the level of consciousness. Yet many people have consciously repudiated those very attitudes. That's one reason Confederate symbols can be so pernicious - they can stimulate attitudes and actions that are at odds with what a person consciously believes and desires, without the person even realizing what's going on. One good thing: I think I've read that it's illegal to try to manipulate people subliminally on tv, movies, etc.


Superkev profile image

Superkev 17 months ago

Ron, I am wondering then, since the Democrat Senator's past was very well known, yet he was allowed to serve until they took him out on a slab, why nothing was done during the 50+ years of his tenure in congress to hold him accountable?

It's well known that he recruited well over 150 new members to the KKK, not only established but led his local chapter of the KKK and still in 1964 filibustered the Civil Rights Act.

I am curious with all this fervor now, why the Democrats allowed someone of this ilk to not only serve as their Senator but to hold numerous leadership positions in the US Senate. His past was no secret and was largely a matter of public record.

So why would the Democrat party allow this? And why would they not have fought tooth and nail to prevent him being honored and immortalized by naming schools, federal buildings and highways after him? I am truly confused.


justthemessenger profile image

justthemessenger 17 months ago from The Great Midwest

I took the poll and voted more complicated then that. I can see where today's southerners may look upon the confederate flag as merely a symbol of regional pride. The flag's prescence is so pervasive there that it seems like part of the sceneary. I recall seeing it displayed in pre Katrina French Quarters. Also, many among the younger generation don't appreciate the reality of the civil rights struggle much less the Cival War. However... the flag is used as a symbol of racism and white supremecy. Furtermore, the Confederacy was formed for the very reason to defend the "dixie" economy driven by a feudal system based upon slave labor and the disenfranchisement of all black people. And, the Confederate flag is its enduring symbol.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Superkev, the fact of the matter is that the Democratic party is a political party. And I've heard a rumor that politicians have sometimes been known to operate more out of political expediency than from moral or ethical considerations. That's just a rumor, I'm sure, but if it were true, it would explain why Byrd and his ilk were not only tolerated, but at times honored.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

justthemessenger, to my mind people who fly the Confederate flag thereby express an attitude of approval of what the Confederacy stood for, and also of disdain for the feelings of African Americans who are massively offended by what the Confederacy stood for. Not to mention the associations attached to the flag during the rise of the KKK in the early 20th century, and especially the often violent resistance practiced by Southern states during the civil rights movement. I think you're right that the younger generation doesn't really understand the history, and so may not understand what all the fuss is about. I hope that changes.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

I equate the Confederate battle flag with the Swastika. I believe any symbol that stands for any group that glorifies purposely treating others inhumanely does not belong on any government building. I think the only appropriate place for the Confederate flag is in museums and in proper historical context.

Slavery is the perhaps the single most horrible, horrifying, and inhumane thing the human race ever invented. Anything that symbolizes it is a symbol of shame. The Confederate flag is a sick celebration of a culture of treating human beings like things in order to make money and feel special.

Legally speaking, I think the Confederate flag should be treated like the Swastika.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, I think the comparison of the Confederate flag to the Swastika is an apt one. It's ironic that hate groups in some European countries that don't allow the Swastika to be displayed have adopted the Confederate flag in its place. I'm very hopeful that more and more Americans are beginning to acknowledge just what that flag stands for. Thanks for reading and sharing.


Superkev profile image

Superkev 17 months ago

I think we should also ban the "Pan African" flag since to this day slavery is still practiced in Africa. I think too, the the Flags of Ivory Coast, Sierra Leon and Liberia should be banned because those are the home countries of the tribes who brought other Africans to the coastal ports and sold them to the European slave traders.

And further to same, I want the flags of Spain, Portugal, Britain and The Netherlands to be permanently banned from display in the US as they all FAR exceeded the volume of African slaves taken during the Atlantic Slave Trade years.

And since the country of Brazil received well over 4 Millions African slaves during those years as opposed to the US which received approx. 500K (Per Harvard Prof. Henry Louis Gates) I demand that this racist flag never been seen again inside this country!!That flag is a sick celebration of a culture of treating human beings like things in order to make money and feel special.

Also I demand that the 5 civilized Native-American tribes ( Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) who refused to release their African slaves even after the Emancipation Proclamation have their racist nations dissolved at once, I will not tolerate such racist people having an independent nation within our borders!! That these tribes are allowed to live and work among us is a symbol of shame! It's almost like the Nazi's won and these flags are no better than a Swastika!!!

And Ron, I gave you a chance to NOT be disingenuous and use weasel words to justify the inaction of Democrats towards racists in their own ranks, I see this was far too much to expect. You know exactly why Senator Byrd was never called out for being not only a racist but a leader of the KKK, and so do I.


Jennifer Mugrage profile image

Jennifer Mugrage 17 months ago from Columbus, Ohio

Thanks for this article. I voted "more complicated than that" in the poll above.

I'm a white woman from the North who was raised to believe that racism is just about the worst thing there is. I'm very sensitive to being accused of racism, because to me, it is truly like being called a Nazi. I have been told (even by other whites) that to be white is to be inescapably (though perhaps subconsciously) racist. I disagree.

That said, I do believe the Confederate battle flag has been permanently tainted. Not only through its use by groups like the KKK, but already before that, because the Confederate cause was so bound up with slavery.

It's the nature of a symbol to mean varying, personal things to different people, depending on their experience with the symbol. So sure, to whites with roots in the South, the flag stands for a lot of things, like respect for their ancestors. I can even see how being asked to give the flag up, would translate to some as, "You and your culture have no right to exist."

But symbols can't be personalized without limit. If you are going to use a symbol, you have to take into account how it will be understood by the majority (or plurality) of people who see it. If you know that using a symbol will cause an entire group of people to think that you hate them, why would you want to keep using that symbol? Even if hatred is not what it means to you, surely you would give up displaying it, just so as to make your good intentions clear.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Jennifer, for a thoughtful comment. I think you are exactly on target in saying that the Confederate flag has been permanently tainted; and flying it sends a message that inevitably carries that taint, no matter the intentions of the person who flies it. I understand and in fact sympathize (to a degree) with people who want to have their heritage respected. But what the Confederate flag communicates about that heritage is not something to be celebrated or honored. As the research indicates, you can't display that flag today without continuing to hurt, offend, and disrespect people who have been injured for many decades by those who were proud to fly that banner as a symbol of their totally shameful beliefs and actions.


Zena Lefae profile image

Zena Lefae 17 months ago

Excellent article! I liked how the research you utilized involves subliminal messaging and we cannot realize what effects that symbols have on us. At the same time, I wonder what the numbers would look like if the researcher used an equivalent number of multicultural subjects would show. Will everyone have that negative impression after being exposed to the flag? Also, if it was tested in the Northern states as well. Also, we should ban the items that have Malcolm X on it. Anything that tries to promote racial aggression on either side should be eliminated from the public rather than treated with respect or pride.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Zena. You pose an interesting question of how other ethnic groups might respond to seeing the flag. I've not seen any reports about that. The researchers did say that even students from the North were affected by being exposed to the flag. Regarding other potential targets for being eliminated from public view, I believe the Confederate flag, and Confederate-themed items in general, occupy a unique place in American history and present consciousness. Nothing else comes near to having the corrosive effect those symbols have. They are the priority.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Zena L

Obviously you know nothing about Malcolm X. His agenda was to stand against the violent aggression of racist white Americans: "By any means necessary". Gee Zena, that's exactly the same philosophy George Washington adopted toward the Crown. In fact the U.S. still conducts it's foreign policy in the same manner; using all the latest weaponry of mass destruction in order to achieve their Imperialist goals.

But your true motivations are most clearly betrayed by this one simple fact: The image of Malcolm X is not displayed at any state capital, or in any government offices. So you might as well have brought up Mother Goose , or Willy Wonka, because either has as much relevance to this issue as Malcolm X. Osiyo


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Ron

This was interesting. Outside the USA the confederate flag seems to show the typical 'Redneck' (just about every nation has them). Even here in NZ the skinhead gangs use the confederate flag.

I think its tragic that if what you say about it originally being simply the Battle flag of Robert E Lee's army (I believe he personally was against slavery) has been hijacked by a bunch of thugs.

If that's the case then no matter what it's origins, it's time to take it down.

Lawrence


Zena Lefae profile image

Zena Lefae 17 months ago

Wrenchbiscuit,

Yes, I agree that it is not as severe and controversial as the Confederate flag. However it does have relevance in terms of the symbolism and negative stereotypes that gather towards the symbol overtime to where it possesses controversial meaning. In history books, Malcolm X is a huge figure in civil rights history and yet he is juxtaposed to Martin Luther King Jr due to the way he approached the public; Malcolm emphasized equal rights and keeping racial groups separate. Malcolm X's affiliation with the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad (the idea of death to the blue eyed devil) brought him much fame and also led to his destruction (his assassination). In the end, Malcolm X changed his message--integration and brotherly love--for the better but his connection with the NOI for so many years will always taint our image of him.

The Confederate flag is an icon of Southern history where they wanted to separate themselves from the North due to unfair taxation and representation. However, since they endorsed slavery, they will never be able to remove that stain from this symbol. This article, and experiments in the article, proves that increases in negative racial stereotypes do occur when in reaction to seeing the Confederate flag.

Lastly, you are entitled to your opinion and I do not mind pointing out flaws in my words. However, you condescension can be left out. Thank you.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Lawrence. I think that the fact that hate groups around the world feel an affinity with the Confederate flag tells a tale of its own.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Ron

I think you're right there.

Lawrence


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Zena,

You have taken an untenable position. To anyone who believes in freedom, equality, self respect,and self-preservation, Malcolm X is a positive stereotype. You see it as a negative because of Malcolm's overt defiance of white supremacy. But if anyone of color should make a disparaging remark about what is truly evil; if anyone of color should point out that a majority of those who perpetrated crimes against the African actually did have blue eyes, and most certainly were devils, you will be the first to say that they are being negative and divisive.

As I believe I have already stated, you have attempted to mitigate, and provide a counter-balance to the evil of the confederate flag. Suggesting that someone like Malcolm X symbolizes a similar type of negative influence is ludicrous.

In Matthew 21:12 we read: And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN."

Malcolm X spoke of evil, and defied the evil of white racist society with his words, but he did not commit any violent acts against his oppessors, not even as Jesus did in the temple. Jesus did not only speak, but he took aggressive action against that which he hated and despised.

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says," No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

Here in this verse we see that Jesus is encouraging us to hate that which is evil. It appears that according to your criteria, Jesus is also a negative influence!

White America more readily accepted Dr. King because they had grown accustomed to the black man being kicked but not kicking back. In a nation where the white man has always used violence to get what he wants, the black man is admonished to "peacefully protest" be polite, and refrain from any speech that might be divisive, no matter how many wrongs are perpetrated against him. Zena, when this is all over. There will be no place for the evil racist to hide: not behind a flag, not behind a song, not behind a Constitution, a revised history, or an excuse.


thecrookedbell profile image

thecrookedbell 17 months ago

I always take pleasure when people claim they know why another person flys the flag. Oh, and yes. Most are from the North.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

thecrookedbell, I don't think the issue is why someone flies the flag, but what that flag signifies, no matter what the motives of the person who flies it. The very purpose of any flag is to be a symbol that embodies certain ideas. The fact is that the ideas the Confederate battle flag represents have been fixed by more than 150 years of use by people who fought to support a system based on slavery, or who used it to signify their unbending and often violent opposition to equal citizenship for black people in this country. Flag supporters say we shouldn't try to hide our history. In that they are right - but the history associated with that flag is not glorious but shameful. And we should not continue to perpetuate that shame today.


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 17 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Flags are used as a rallying point. They are there not to 'look pretty' (though they sometimes do) but to communicate a message.

There is another symbol that started out as a symbol for good in both Christianity and other religions but no one today would dream of flying a Swastika!

To those who suffered under the confederate flag that symbol is just as powerful and hurtful as the Swastika!

Yes we should keep the history alive but without the harmful symbols!

Paul said that if I'm doing something that offends my brother then I should stop doing it.

Lawrence


word55 profile image

word55 17 months ago from Chicago

Hey lawrence01, way to take a stand. I agree with you 100%. Glad you went to scripture on it. Ron? Excellent addressing issues of the flag. Your writing is superb when you do write. I really can't relate to hating. If I did hate I'd feel like something is senseless about me. I'd feel like I should hate God for insisting that I love my brethren and sisters. I wouldn't go along with anything that represented being better than others because it would not be truth.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

lawrence01, great points.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, word55. I think that if we all remembered and were guided by Christ's command that we love one another, issues like this would quickly dissipate.


Superkev profile image

Superkev 17 months ago

Those flags at state houses, Fort Sumter, Gettysburg and many other locations had been flying for decades if not a hundred or more years. The Dukes of Hazard had been on TV for 36 years.

None of you were offended until liberals told you to be.

Now the City of Memphis wants to dig up a dead man and his wife who have been resting there for more than a hundreds years, it's disgusting and nothing but a divisive liberal agenda being pushed and the still warm bodies of the victims in Charleston being used to promote a political social agenda.

All you hear about anymore is the flag, as if it was that flag that made him kill those people, you never even hear his name anymore, it's just the flag, the flag, the flag!

He burned an American flag too, he wore the flags of Rhodesia and the old South African flag on his jacket, why are you not blaming THESE flags?

Because liberals told you to go after the other flag, that's why. This disgusts me, mindless sheep following Big Brother's instruction. Not an individual thought in their heads.

Y'all make George Orwell look like a prophet and not just an author.

"Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia. The enemy of the moment always represented absolute evil, and it followed that any past or future agreement with him was impossible."

The whole thing is sad, and utterly predictable. Sheep, nothing more.


thecrookedbell profile image

thecrookedbell 17 months ago

Freedom of speech. I love how people look and choose who has freedom of speech and who doesnt. Black Panthers with billy clubs, sunglasses and fatigues at a polling booth. Freedom of speech. Christian bakers dont want to bake a cake for a gay wedding. No. Freedom of speech is black and white. Once you start choosing. Then its gone. What people like you do not understand. When you take your neighbors right away. Eventually they get to you.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

thecrookedbell,

What does freedom of speech have to do with the confederate flag? What do the Black Panthers, or a Gay Wedding, have to do with a symbol of racism being removed from government offices? Did I miss something? Is there a Black Panther flag flying over a statehouse somewhere in the U.S.? Please explain.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

@thecrookedbell

It's all very ridiculous to want the government to keep displaying the flag of a long-defeated enemy to make you feel free. Your side rebelled against the legal government to keep the slaves who made their type of economy of white wealth possible and they lost. Most Southerners have accepted that they lost their rebellion and they've moved on, and most are ashamed of the folks who cling to their racism like it's God or life or a beloved child. What other government flies the flags of its defeated enemies on its government buildings? The British don't fly Swastikas over their government buildings, so why should we fly the defeated slavers' flag over ours?

You still have all the freedom of speech in the world to fly the Confederate battle flag over your home, you can proclaim from the rooftops, "I am a racist, hear me roar!" and decent people can know to avoid you. It's even legal for you to just fly a swastika instead if you prefer the color scheme. People are just trying to get symbols of hate speech off public buildings here, not take your beloved guns, turn you gay, make your wife into a feminist, or even take away your personal favorite racist symbols from your private property.

The KKK is still allowed to exist in the US, despite them urging on the church burnings in the American South. You are still allowed to hate all you want and to talk about who you hate all you want.

You want to be free to practice hate speech, and you are. You want to legalize discrimination in businesses, but that you can't do. Bringing back and expanding segregation to cover gays is not within your power or your rights. Your rights end where the human rights of others begin.

The Swastika has been outright illegal in Germany for decades because they are ashamed of the sort of history you are proud of. It hasn't caused anything else other than the adoption of the American Confederate Battle flag as its replacement with NeoNazi groups.

The study this very intelligent writer speaks of in his editorial is real. Your freedom of speech doesn't allow you to incite violence or to yell "fire" in a theater or "I've got a gun" on an airplane. The Battle flag is a call to arms. That's what battle flags are.


thecrookedbell profile image

thecrookedbell 17 months ago

wrenchbiscuit Yes you are missing something.

Kylssya, Never said the govt. should fly the flag. As a matter of fact it should have no connections to the govt. at all.

When you say "my side". You know I am from Michigan right ? LOL

Here is a helpful tip. On the house. Quit thinking with emotion.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

@thecrookedbell

The only reason conservative evangelical Christian bakers hate having to make cakes for gay people is they have an emotional objection to other people's relationships.Your fear of gays taking away your rights by being allowed to buy cake just like everybody else is emotional so why shouldn't other people be allowed to have emotions about racism? Racism actually hurts people, cake generally doesn't.

It is your side because you've taken it. Geography has nothing to do with sides. I'm also from Michigan and I've seen and met plenty of racists and people who think gays ought not to have equal rights. Heck, it's still legal to discriminate against gay people in Michigan and they can't legally adopt.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Let the world take note that thecrookedbell could only respond with a meaningless soundbyte. Apparently the connection 'bell has made between Gays, free speech, Black Panthers, and the confederate flag is just too complex to explain. As far as Michigan is concerned, it is when I was in bootcamp at Great Lakes that I saw my first group of neo-Nazis. They were goose stepping down mainstreet in Milwaukee Wisconsin, at least 20 or more in full regalia. It was apparent to me then that the south doesn't have a monopoly on racism.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 17 months ago from Northeast Ohio

This was another compelling and interesting hub from you Ron concerning racism in America, especially since TV Land dumped Dukes of Hazard from its TV schedule. I know that CMT shows DOH's reruns too. Voted up!


Superkev profile image

Superkev 17 months ago

And yet still, no one can explain to me why there are federal gov't buildings, highways and local schools named after Ku Klux Klan founder and leader in WV, Robert Byrd, and not one protest or demands that these be changed.

Why is that, do you think?

Did not the Klan do far more damage to black people than this flag ever did? How many of the over 150 members of the KKK that Byrd recruited went on to commit violence and murders against a black person do you reckon? How many lynchings do you think were committed or aided by people he brought into the fold? Just an estimate.

Hypocrites, the lot of you.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, Kristen. Yes, the cancellation of Dukes of Hazard, and Warner Bros refusing to license "General Lee" cars with the Confederate flag on top has made a stir. I have an article that relates. You can see it at http://writedge.com/confederate-flag-why-heritage-...


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

I am a Southern man who has never owned a Confederate flag, nor have I owned anything with the image of the Confederate flag on it. This is because I associate it with a certain type of person that I am not. Whether this type of persons are bigots or not, I don't know, but they are usually a seedy bunch.

I can understand how some people associate it with something bad and I can understand how some people associate it with something good. However, if it causes a divide, then I agree that we should remove that image from any government entities because we don't need any more things to create animosity. We should be attempting to bridge the gap instead.

With all of this being said, I do not agree that the flag is evil, although I do think evil people use it. I don't agree that it causes hate. I don't think the flag causes someone to not vote for a black president. I think it is more likely that he got more votes solely on the color of his skin.

I do think this transition was caused by fear due to ignorance and it is going a bit overboard, but in life the pendulum of social issues usually does swing to extremes and rarely stays in the middle. I myself would never protest the banning of the flag from government buildings, but I also wouldn't lead the charge to eliminate them, either. Great Hub!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thanks, TheBizWhiz. I think what the research is revealing is not that the Confederate flag is somehow in itself evil, but that over its 150 year history the people who have used that flag to represent their ideals have associated evil ideas with it that it cannot now escape. What the Confederate flag represents today is not a matter of your opinion or mine, but of the meaning that has been indelibly written into it by more than a century and a half of being associated in the public mind with the ideas of those who flew it.


Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 17 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Ron, I would have to check out that link later that week. I wish we all can get along and have no racism in the world with peace.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

Ron,

Thanks for your reply. I would like to address one thing that you said: "What the Confederate flag represents today is not a matter of your opinion or mine, but of the meaning that has been indelibly written into it by more than a century and a half of being associated in the public mind with the ideas of those who flew it."

But peoples opinions do matter in the meaning that is taken from the flag. It has no intrinsic ideas of its own, it is only viewed by how each individual perceives it. Some view it as evil and some do not.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

TheBizWhiz, my point is not that the St. Andrews Cross design has some intrinsic meaning. In fact, it's just the opposite. When people see the Confederate flag, their reaction is based on the ideas with which that emblem has been associated through decades. What individuals today want to see in the flag is not going to displace what those who flew it under Robert E. Lee raised it to symbolize (whatever else you say about them, we all know they fought against the United States in defense of a system every one of them knew was based on slavery). Neither can it be divorced from its history of being the preferred emblem of those who used it to symbolize their hatred for, discrimination against, and violence upon African Americans over decades of time. That's what the research is demonstrating - even people who are not themselves prejudiced associate that flag with prejudice, even when they are exposed to it only subliminally. That means the understanding of what the flag represents is, by this point in its history, deeply imprinted on our subconscious minds. I can choose to say that what that flag means to me is jolly times around the fireplace, but that does not and cannot change the meaning its history has written in the public consciousness (or subconsciousness) in this country.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

" Neither can it be divorced from its history of being the preferred emblem of those who used it to symbolize their hatred for, discrimination against, and violence upon African Americans over decades of time."

But that is your perception. While the Civil War was initiated over how slavery, most that actually fought did not own, nor wanted to own slaves. Those that own this flag do not stare at it and think in anger about how they can get slavery back.

"I can choose to say that what that flag means to me is jolly times around the fireplace, but that does not and cannot change the meaning its history has written in the public consciousness (or subconsciousness) in this country."

Public perception has changed over the flag, but only recently and only because of fear. But just because the majority feel that way now (recently) doesn't mean it is correct. If you feel the majority should rule then how will you feel when the majority perception goes back to NOT having a negative outlook on the flag.

I understand that because you are African American you might have strong feelings against it, but that doesn't mean you can read the minds of White Americans that hold a positive view of the flag and do not associate it with racism.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

The Biz Whiz,

When a woman is raped, it is not simply a matter of perception or opinion. When someone hits you in the head with a ballpeen hammer it's not a matter of perception or opinion either. Are you suggesting a man might claim that he didn't really rape the woman, but only "bumped into her" accidentally? And who would believe the man who claimed the hammer mysteriously fell from his hand and hit the other man in the head 5 times, front and back? Your argument is superfluous and absurd.

I grew up right near the Mason Dixon line. Anyone I ever knew who displayed that flag on their property, or carried that emblem on their truck, clothing, etc. were either Klan, or freelance racists with no particular affiliation. I didn't read this in a book. I lived among them, I conversed with them, I drank beer with them, and the general consensus was always the same. They didn't like black people. Period.

You obviously haven't studied the history of the South. A great majority of southerners aspired to be slave-owners but were too poor to afford the start up cost. Many were saving money to do just that when the war broke out. Having a plantation with slaves was their ticket to the big time. These people were vulgar and shiftless. They had grown accustomed to the idea of having someone else, a slave, do the heavy lifting for them. Read and learn.

Furthermore, I have never heard a white racist say they wanted to bring back the institution of slavery. But I have heard a lot of racial epithets, and a lot of hate coming from those who wave the confederate flag. Your comment about public perception changing is a complete fiction. People who wave the confederate flag have always been racists, or just plain stupid. The rest have been either apathetic, or intelligent enough to deeply despise its meaning. These perspectives on the confederate flag have remained constant since the late sixties.

You have questioned the wisdom of allowing the majority to rule when this has more to do with morality. The nihilist or the atheist cannot comprehend such a thing since they do not believe in an absolute morality. What is morally correct must always rule, in spite of the majority. And those of you who do not know what is morally correct have only proven to yourselves that you have no soul.

Hafa Adai


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

The flag in question has also literally been used as a replacement for the swastika by Nazi groups where the swastika has been banned.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

@wrenchBiscuit Your attack on atheists is not warranted. While atheists don't believe in biblical morality, we do believe in ethics and in morality derived through empathy. Atheists tend to support the idea that human rights be applied to all humans equally because we don't believe in God given rights given out unequally to chosen people or to some races over other races. My morality can be summed up in just a few words; do no harm, be kind, and be helpful whenever you can. Just because it's derived through logic and positive human emotions, it doesn't make it evil. Biblical morality comes from invisible authority interpreted just as subjectively as morality arrived at by other means such as through compassion and logic. If Biblical morality were truly objective, all Christians would share the same morals and nothing could be further from the truth.

By the way, the KKK is a Christians-only organization.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Klyssa,

The Christians do not have a monopoly on God. I was not necessarily referring to Biblical morality. Please show me were I said anything about the Bible or Christianity in my comment. That is merely your assumption. Consequently, your point about the subjective or objective nature of morality is not relevant to my argument. I maintain that an atheist cannot subscribe to an absolute morality, because to do so requires a belief, and a faith in God.

In this context anything that is to be considered absolute must necessarily be objective, and immovable. What you have expressed is your subjective morality. Another atheist may have a radically different moral perspective. In a world inhabited by billions of people, subjective morality doesn't work very well, as we can clearly see.

Concerning the KKK, I am aware that they consider themselves a Christian organization but they are not. A Christian is someone who follows Christ. I can't imagine Jesus putting on a stupid costume and then burning churches and lynching people. People can say they are anything. Look at what happened to John Brown. Henry David Thoreau was one of the few people who stood up for Brown, and pleaded for his life to be spared. Where were all the good Christians? Why didn't they storm the gallows and save the life of a righteous man? The answer is: They didn't stand up for Brown because the majority of Americans during his time were Christians in name only. Just like today.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

@wrenchBiscuit Sorry, it was wrong to assume you are a Christian, generally people prejudiced against atheists belong to some religion or another. If the absolute morality you subscribe to isn't Biblical, where does your morality come from?


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

TheBizWhiz, you say I can’t “read the minds of white Americans that hold a positive view of the flag.” Exactly! That’s precisely my point, and more importantly, the point of the research I cite in the article. When the research subjects were exposed to a Confederate flag image on a sticker attached to a folder, no one explained to them what was in the mind of the person who left it there. Yet just seeing that flag stimulated negative reactions toward black people.

What that demonstrates is that the Confederate flag has a public meaning in our society that is entirely independent of whatever may be in the mind or heart of someone who displays it. And that public meaning, which has been infused into that image by its more than 150 years of association with people and causes dedicated to denying basic human rights to African Americans, is evoked even in people who are themselves without prejudice. It's that public, shared meaning that is unavoidably communicated when the Confederate flag is flown, no matter the intentions of the individual who flies it.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Kylyssa,

First of all, I never said I was a Christian, and I didn't say I wasn't. Adopting a particular religion or philosophy can help us to expedite the application of moral principles in our lives. But if we study the world around us, we can reach an objective conclusion as to what the absolute universal moral code is. And what we will find, is that our objective conclusion is in line with most of the major world religions. Thus, in this way, I have come to understand that there is an absolute moral code that is common throughout the world. Of course that is the long answer. What I just described is simply the process of talking to God.

Anyone who might dispute this method has either never studied the world in this manner, or they are defective. A defective individual might follow the proper steps but still arrive at a different conclusion.This can be proven by the following hypothetical: Imagine 999,999 out of 1,000,000 people perceive a red ballon to be blue, then it doesn't really matter that the ballon is red. The objective reality of the majority is that the balloon is blue. Apparently they have been "hard wired" to better function by seeing blue instead of red. The "right" or "wrong" of the majority's perception is irrelevant in such a context.

The one person who saw red, the balloons true color, serves no good purpose to the majority, since even if they chose to believe that the balloon was red, they would still only see blue. Even though red is the true color, the person who saw red is defective, because he was born into a world where humamns have been designed to function best when red is perceived to be blue.

With this understanding,, we can clearly see that a study of behavior, and moral codes practiced throughout the world, can help us to arrive at an objective absolute morality that can better serve the common good.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

wrenchbisquit,

Your fatuous comparison of rape/physical assault to peoples' perception of a flag shows your lack of real world knowledge. Your point seems to have no direction when you talk about politics or religion/morality.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

Ron,

You made a generalizing statement about the perception of the flag. While it may cause hate and violence in some, it doesn't for all.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Many have lost their way while looking at a roadmap. We can't blame the mapmaker for someone's inability to follow directions. There are many things that seem silly and pointless when we lack understanding.

It is irrelevant whether the confederate flag causes hate and violence in one or a million. I never suggested either. Perhaps you are thinking of someone else's argument. You forget that I know how to use the middle mouse button. I was responding to your response to Ron ElFran who commented:

" Neither can it be divorced from its history of being the preferred emblem of those who used it to symbolize ..."

Your response began, " But that is your perception ..."

Here you go on to suggest that Ron's conclusion is entirely subjective. You then create a fiction and then argue against your own fantastic tale. Many use that method here on Hubpages, but it is very poor etiquette when it comes to serious debate. Ron did not state in that comment that the flag "caused" hate and violence in anyone. His point was that it "symbolizes" violence. My comment, and wonderful example, supports his assertion. What he brought out in his clearly presented analysis illustrates what I myself have seen and experienced; in the midwest, on the coast of California, in New York, Hawaii, and in the deep South.

I am an entertainer, and before that I served in the Navy. I have met many people from many backgrounds. My experience indicates that his perspective on the whole affair is bulletproof. Your response clearly indicates that it is you who have no real world knowledge.

The confederate flag has always been understood by the majority to be a symbol of hate and bigotry. It is of no matter that a simpleton may display this flag unaware of it's true meaning; no more than it matters whether or not a child realizes the toy in his hand is a real gun. His lack of knowledge won't stop the bullet.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

wrenchbisquit,

Again, you are making comments that show your lack of understanding of the situation and also a lack comprehension of how conversations actually work.

This response of mine: "But that is your perception..." was obviously in response was to the debate of whether the flag is seen as a symbol of hate. The fact that you picked one of his comments and picked one of mine as a direct response shows that you are either dishonest or lacking intelligence or both.

Your first response to me was: "Your argument is superfluous and absurd."

So sorry if I am not responding in the most polite manner to you know, but when you initiate a conversation in this way, there is no where to go but down.

The fact remains that you came in here comparing the symbolism of a flag to rape and now you are comparing it to a child with a gun. I am sure that victims of violence in these natures would not appreciate your comparisons. Your lack of overall reading comprehension and idiotic use of metaphors shows a reasoning more suited for the diatribe made in chat rooms rather than intelligent discussions.

You tell me that I do not have the understanding to comprehend what you are saying, but the reality is that you are only spouting off a bunch of garbage.

For instance, you said: "The nihilist or the atheist cannot comprehend such a thing since they do not believe in an absolute morality. What is morally correct must always rule, in spite of the majority. And those of you who do not know what is morally correct have only proven to yourselves that you have no soul."

Yet when confronted, you dance around the subject. For some reason you think this talking in gibberish and circles makes you sound smart, but an intelligent person gets straight to the point.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

I am amazed that you would make such a claim when your responses are here for all to see. Furthermore, anyone can take a fine painting, such as the wonderful, " Beach at Scheveningen in Calm Weather" by Van Gogh, and throw dirt on it and call it trash. But that only proves such a person has no culture, or taste for art. It is no reflection on a masterpiece.

Since you cannot refute my arguments you obviously feel a vitriolic attack on my character will suffice. Apparently you have something invested in the confederate flag. But regardless of your emotional attachment to a symbol of evil, it is coming down, and it is being put in it's proper place next to the Nazi Swastika.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:6 : "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." There is much truth in the Christian Bible. Osiyo!


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 17 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

@TheBizWhiz There's no point in arguing when someone just starts throwing out random attacks at people who are not even on the opposing side of an argument. We're just cluttering up the comments arguing with WB over unrelated things.

I'm an atheist, and I think the Confederate flag as become so much a symbol of racism, even to the point of being adopted by modern Nazis as a swastika replacement, that it has zero reason or right to be displayed over the government buildings of any country. The movement to get rid of it now is one to stop celebrating racist symbols because such symbols encourage racists to feel pride in their racism when they should feel ill from it if they were in a healthy state of mind and possessed of the appropriate facts. People's pride in their racism is a barrier to them being cured of racism.

Yet WrenchBiscuit randomly blasted atheists, somehow, it looked to me, blaming atheists for everything wrong in the world, including racism. I'm sure they must exist because emotionally ill individuals exist in all groups, but I've never met a racist atheist in my entire life. Racism is incredibly illogical and all empirical evidence points to the differences between human beings being so tiny they don't even signify as anything but the uniqueness of each separate person. One doesn't need to believe in God to find racism to be sick, harmful, repulsive, and wrong-headed. In fact, twisting and warping a believed authority by God can support racism and lead people to believe they, the racists are obeying that authority.

My view of the evidence strongly leads me to believe that racism requires some kind of illogical input from some kind of authority, kin group, or in group. Kin groups and in groups are strengthened by symbols they share and authority figures often use those shared symbols to reinforce their authority with such groups and to prove how alike they want to be seen as.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Confederate battle flag has been used almost (note the almost) exclusively as an in group or kin group symbol and as a rallying point for racists, misogynists, homophobes, and an assortment of religious bigots for over a hundred years.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

While I am a Christian, I don't believe a person must be one to be moral, so I didn't understand his random attack.

I also don't think that everyone that hold the Confederate Flag does so due to racism, whether everyone believes that or not.

Thank you for your level reasoning. That is a rare ability in this world


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

Wrench, I refuted your arguments that were relevant.

As for the flag being "banned". It is only being taken down @ government buildings and by private businesses that wish to do so. Private individuals can still own and fly it, which ironically seems to be happening more after this controversy. The nation did not ban it altogether from my knowledge as Germany did the Nazi flag.

Btw, if you knew how to read, you would have seen where I wrote that I have no emotional attachment to the flag. I just think the controversy is for the mindless sheep who jump on fear bandwagons and follow what the pc police tell them to.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 17 months ago

Klyssa,

You have also created a grand fiction. It is your interpretation that is in error. Nowhere in my commentary have I "blasted atheists". Neither did I blame atheists for "everything wrong in the world". In fact I didn't blame atheists for anything. I challenge you to show me where I did. You have created a fantastic story and made me the villain.

What I said is simply the truth: An atheist by his or her very nature cannot subscribe to an absolute morality, because to do so requires a belief in an absolute authority, or God. Any conclusions based on scientific inquiry would not be interpreted by the atheist to be absolute, but only applicable to that particular group, society, or species. It is also rare for an atheist to believe in an afterlife or a soul. And so, my comment about being soulless is simply what many atheists already believe, and espouse themselves.

Your accusations have absolutely no merit. You are the one who took us down this path. Apparently you do not you do not like my answers.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

wrench,

From my understanding, one doesn't need to believe in God to believe in moral absolutism. That is the belief that something is wrong no matter what the situation is. This does not pertain only to laws made by a god or supreme being, but also the laws of the universe. Atheist only means the rejection in the belief of a deity. That doesn't mean they don't deny laws of the universe.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

For those of you debating whether belief in God is necessary to morality, I'll draw your attention to my hub on the subject, "Why Morality Requires Faith In God" [http://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Why-Morali...]. You may want to continue that debate there.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

I thought this hubber put things in perspective.

http://hubpages.com/politics/A-Southerners-View-on...


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

TheBizWhiz, I saw that hub and commented on it. My comment there gives a more personal expression, but one that is still based on the same perspective (and data) as this hub.


TheBizWhiz 17 months ago

I completely understand from your point of view. From the beginning, I have stated that I do not own a Confederate Flag and understand why it is being taken down. I also think that it has different meanings to different people and we each have our own point of view created from our experiences. I think that young lady just put that perspective in a better way than I ever could.


DWDavisRSL profile image

DWDavisRSL 17 months ago from Eastern NC

My problem with the study is that in order for the images of the flag to have a subliminal effect, a bias had to already exist in the subjects subconscious or the effect would have been the same on subjects of both races. It is not the flag itself which causes the attitudes but the preconceived notions it awakens from the subjects subconscious. Otherwise, why were only whites affected by the image. And why were no Hispanics, Asians, First Americans, or other ethnic groups included in the study? I'd also be curious to see the same study done using other flags, including the US Flag and the Pan-African Flag. All that said, I don't think the Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee (the rectangular version of the "rebel" flag) or the Confederate Naval Ensign should be flying over any government buildings in the United States of America.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 17 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

DWDavisRSL, I don't disagree that the flag seems to tap into attitudes that were already in the subjects' minds. But I think that's exactly the point. The Confederate flag has associations, you might say "baggage," that are already fixed in the minds of most Americans. That's the result of us being aware of the ideas the people who flew that flag through more than 150 years of its history used it to symbolize. (Remember that the whole purpose of a flag is to be a visual symbol of the ideas those who fly it want to communicate). Unsurprisingly, we got the message! And now, when people see that flag, it communicates to their conscious or subconscious minds a reminder of those ideas it has been used for so many decades to symbolize. Because of the events that flag is associated with in our history, the ideas it represents have particular resonance for whites and blacks. I'm not sure that other ethnic groups would be as impacted, since their members were not as directly involved in the issues the Confederate flag represents.


DWDavisRSL profile image

DWDavisRSL 17 months ago from Eastern NC

RonElFran, Would Hispanics have the same reaction as blacks or whites? Historically, they had little to do with the Confederacy but more recently they have been targets of prejudice and discrimination (actually they always have been but their growing numbers have led to more coverage of the issue recently) so their reactions would provide important information. If nothing else, they could have been used as a control group, a disinterested third party with few to no preconceptions concerning the Confederate Flag.

Also, were any trials done with other flags? If so, this was not included in the report. What if they'd used a pirate flag or a Nazi flag in additional trials?

I don't doubt the results of the study but I would like to see it expanded. The issue for me is that it seems the researchers stopped as soon as they got the answers they were looking for.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

DWDavisRSL, I can't speak for the research team, but I suspect they would say that their objective was to determine what impact the Confederate flag (not all flags) has on Americans who see it. They did not start with a preconceived answer to that question, and stop once they got what they were looking for. They stopped when they got the answer (whichever it turned out to be) to the question their research was designed to address. I have not seen that they have conducted any additional studies along this line.


DWDavisRSL profile image

DWDavisRSL 16 months ago from Eastern NC

RonElFran, Fair enough. Neither of us is in a position to know the preconceptions the research team went into the experiment with. I have enjoyed our discussion of the topic, though. Thank you for a stimulating give-and-take on the subject.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 16 months ago

The Biz Whiz,

It is a fallacy that moral absolutism can be a strictly ethical consideration completely disconnected from any metaphysical, or religious concepts, such as a belief in God. The atheist position rests on the fact that according to scientific inquiry, there is no empirical evidence that God exists. Accordingly, there is no empirical evidence of an absolute morality.

Finally, you speak of "universal laws" as if to suggest that these laws simply materialized of their own accord. Does an automobile create itself? Does even a pencil create itself? No! These things were created through intelligent design by humans. It is absurd to think that an entire complex, functional, universe could create itself, yet, something as simple as a pencil cannot create itself, but must have a creator.


TheBizWhiz 16 months ago

Universal law does not imply intelligent design and moral absolutism is not limited to a god or gods.

Ron suggested we take this discussion elsewhere but if you are going to change the definition of words then there is no need to discuss it further. I can hold a conversation with someone who is ignorant to a subject, but not dishonest. I have crossed too many people like that on the internet to continue down that path.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 16 months ago

The BizWhiz,

In other words , you cannot refute my argument, and so you resort to name calling, and character assassination. Good day.


TheBizWhiz 16 months ago

I contradicted several things you said and presented reasons why. If that is not refuting your argument then I don't know what is. Just because you don't acknowledge it doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Also, to my knowledge I never called you a name.


wrenchBiscuit profile image

wrenchBiscuit 16 months ago

Saying something isn't so is hardly constitutes an argument. I will not address the other as your comment speaks for itself. I have no need to resort to such tactics, as my arguments are enough to suffice. Now go ahead and have the last word , because I have compelled you to do so. I have nothing further to add.


TheBizWhiz 16 months ago

It is obvious that you had nothing to add period. I will readily admit that I like to get the last word in because it is an old habit, but let's see if you can stick to your guns and not answer back...even though I have compelled you to do so. lol


Christopher Jay T profile image

Christopher Jay T 16 months ago from Fort Worth, TX

Good article,but I strongly disagree that looking at the flag could make white people harbor racist thoughts. Unless of course a white person can be racist against his own race. seeing that flag makes me angry at the white crackers flying it. Lol! I don't have a lot of faith in statistics, since they can easily be manipulated for a favored out come. I hope it's not true, if so it's sad.


Kylyssa profile image

Kylyssa 16 months ago from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

I think it's not that the flag makes people harbor racist thoughts, but that it makes racist people feel like those thoughts are positive. It's a symbol which people have used to elevate and celebrate racism (and misogyny and religious bigotry) for over a hundred years so racist people seeing it feel proud, normal, and validated.


William Dugat profile image

William Dugat 16 months ago from Lufkin, Texas

It is a symbol of southern pride, yes, but it is also heritage. Those soldiers gave their lives in the civil war for that flag, and even though what they were fighting for may have been wrong, you must honor anyone who sacrifices their life for what they believe in. They had a purpose for their fighting, and that must be honored.

The case in South Carolina... That flag is not on the statehouse grounds, but instead on a nearby confederate memorial. That shouldn't be removed.

As for the flag causing racist thoughts... I agree that it may draw MEMORIES of racism from the 1800's, but not trigger racism. Honestly, reading this without knowing the name of the author, I would think it was something Anthony Kennedy would write. What you are targeting here is a theory called "unconscious racism." It supposes that ALL white southerners are racist, whether they know it or not. We may not know were racist, but because we live in the south, we are automatically racist. This, obviously, is a completely absurd assumption.

My father is a few years from retirement, but he still works for the school district in the area that I live. He had a meeting just yesterday with the new black superintendent and the other teachers in the district. She wanted to know why there were no black children in the advanced programs at the schools in our district, and why there were so many in the office all the time. Every child was given the opportunity to take higher level classes, but none of them had the willpower to do so, and they denied the offer. Does this make us racist? There are so many black kids getting office referrals. They don't have to get into trouble, and they all have the option to act correctly in school. Does it make us racist because they don't? Why are there so few white children on the football and basketball teams? No one ever asked this question. What people don't get, is that by calling us racist for things such as this, for assuming that the flag is racist, and for assuming that we are all "unconsciously racist," is BEING racist. Why is this being ignored? There are many black people who are very very racist in the world, but it is only targeted on white people. How does that make any sense? How is that fair?


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

William Dugat, thanks for your comment. Please recall that what is reported here is not assumptions or theories about people being "unconsciously racist," but the results of research conducted by reputable scientists. I've not heard of any other studies that invalidate those results. Whatever the reason may be, just seeing the Confederate flag does cause people to react in a prejudiced way. The unavoidable conclusion is that the Confederate flag is a symbol of ideas and practices that most Americans associate with anti-black prejudice.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Christopher Jay T, I don't think the research is saying that seeing the Confederate flag causes people to harbor racist thoughts. If anything, it's the reverse - the racially prejudiced reactions stirred by the flag occur below the level of consciousness.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 16 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Kylyssa, I'm not sure what may be the psychological mechanisms that lead people to feel that they need to identify themselves with what the Confederate flag symbolizes. What I think this research shows is that whether those who defend that flag realize it consciously or not, it does represent some very negative ideas that show up in people's attitudes when they see it.


Superkev profile image

Superkev 16 months ago

Under which flag were 90,000 African American babies killed last year, the Confederate flag or the Planned Parenthood banner?


kalinin1158 profile image

kalinin1158 15 months ago from California

Disturbing...how an emblem alone can trigger racism, I had no idea. I definitely agree that it's not about the heritage, and even if it was, that heritage is shameful and should not be associated with pride. Great hub!


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 15 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA Author

Thank you, kalinin1158. That the heritage represented by the Confederate flag is not one of honor but of extreme dishonor is exactly what supporters of that flag cannot bring themselves to admit.


Midnight Muse profile image

Midnight Muse 5 days ago from Tampa, Florida

Living in the South, I was taught by my family that the Confederate flag should inspire patriotism. I know that sounds a bit odd, but the idea was that it was a symbol of the voice of the people standing up to what was felt to be significantly differing opinions that lead to the attempt to secede from the Union. The people who gave their lives did so for the same ideas of patriotism that many people feel today, such as protecting our families and values, even though they lost the war. Unfortunately, there are many people who use the Confederate flag as an excuse for racism and that is very distressing. The Civil War was due to a very complex set of issues and the problems of slavery is a significant portion of those problems, but I have become to believe that it was a symptom of a much large set of woes. (Of course, symptoms can kill and should not be taken lightly; but, the cause of the symptom must be addressed to establish a cure. In this case, like most things, it was about money and security... those who have it and those who didn't.) Over many years of contemplation on this subject, I personally feel that the Confederate flag is a part of the history of our America and should not be forgotten. But, at the same time, it should not be venerated as a rallying point in this modern era - that is what our current "united" flag with the fifty stars and thirteen stripes represents. The Confederate flag should be used appropriately in such places as graveyards, battlegrounds, museums, and Civil War re-enactments. It is a part of our history and as such should not be forgotten.

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