Ever since the ruthless murder of George Floyd, the American Public has become outraged; protests have turned from marches to riots and the overall purpose of the protests has changed from police brutality to racism in general, which has reinvigorated the debate on whether Confederate symbolism should exist in modern America. Currently, there are many symbols of the Confederacy, mainly in the Deep South region of America. These are primarily statues of Confederate generals and politicians. The debate on the preservation of this type of symbolism has two main opposing arguments; the first one being that the Confederacy should remain part of the Deep South because it’s ingrained in the states’ culture. Others argue that the Confederacy has an extremely racist history and that no part of America should be associated with that. According to Aljazeera, many Confederate statues including a Robert E Lee statue, an Appomattox statue, and a Zebulon Baird Vance monument have all been taken down by either pressure from protesters or the representative state government.
Right now, the debate on Confederate symbolism centers in Mississippi. Mississippi is the only state that has the Confederate emblem in its flag. A bill has already passed to replace the flag, but lawmakers are still split on whether the state flag should be changed. According to The New York Times, “Supporters of removing the battle flag, once and for all, say the national ferment set off by the death of George Floyd has provided a level of momentum they have not had before… Defenders of the flag have mobilized, viewing the challenge to the flag as a renewed assault mounted against their history.” This ultimately goes back to the main argument on Confederate symbolism: one side argues that the Confederate emblem represents the cultural roots of Mississippi and taking away the flag would be an assault on their identity, and taking away these symbols would basically be taking away their cultural identity while the other side argues that the Confederacy represents racism and slavery so it would be illogical for it to be present in America.
This argument on Confederate symbols plays a big role in the political divide in America. Generally, Conservatives, whether it is politicians or the public, advocate for keeping Confederate symbolism alive in America. This can be explained just by looking at the whole purpose of conservatism. Conservatives argue that old tradition should be kept; it would be logical to infer that because the Confederacy is old, conservatives would argue that its symbolism should be kept alive in America. On the other hand. Democrats – and more specifically Progressives – argue the opposite. Progressiveness is rooted in the fact that governments should not stick to the old ways because they are outdated, so they would argue that these statues and their symbolism are archaic because the Confederacy represents outdated morals and traditions. According to Vox, “New Orleans [Democratic] Mayor Mitch Landrieu passionately defended the move in a speech. ‘They [, the monuments, ] are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for, … They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.” The Mayor had said this during the crisis that was the chaos in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. In response, Republican Karl Oliver wrote in a Facebook post which is now deleted, “[the people who tore down the Confederate monuments] should be LYNCHED”. In addition, President Trump tweeted in response to Charlottesville: “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and, this week Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” This tweet shows that Trump and the Republican Party’s stance on Confederate symbolism is that it is as important as that of the Union.
Ultimately, the debate on whether the Mississippian flag should be replaced plays a bigger debate on whether Confederate symbolism should exist in modern-day America, which ultimately plays a big role in the Democrat-Republic divide in America. Republicans and Conservatives think that the Confederacy has its cultural roots ingrained in America and more specifically the Deep South, while the Democrats and Progressives think that the Confederacy represents racism, slavery, and hate to the Union, so should not be present in any form of American society.