It Turns Out White Support For Confederate Flag Really IS About Racism, Not Heritage

Confederate flag fetishists repeatedly bellow that support for their beloved hate symbol is entirely about their “heritage” and “history,” but a poll analysis conducted by the Washington Post reveals their claims to be as valid as the concept of “legitimate rape.”

Since white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof gunned down nine people in an historic black South Carolina church with the goal of igniting a new civil war, a debate has raged over the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse. Even Republican Governor Nikki Haley, who once supported the flag’s presence, called for its removal as the public outcry against the flag raged.

“It’s a symbol of family and my ancestors who defended the state from invasion. It was about standing up to a central government,” said Chris Sullivan, a member of the Sons of the Confederacy in defense of the flag. “The things that our ancestors fought for were not novel and they really are the same issues we have today.”

Yes, the flag is a symbol of those who “defended” against an “invasion” after Southern states collectively committed treason. The flag was created by people who rose up to kill their countrymen over their belief that black people are inferior — just ask Confederate “Vice President” Alexander Stephens:

“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science.”

Unsurprisingly, the Washington Post found that not only is support of the flag rooted in racism, but that flag fetishists don’t quite understand history:

This debate is not new, nor limited to South Carolina. Much of the discussion revolves around the question of whether the flag represents “heritage or hatred” (see, for example, here, here, and here). Drawing on rare survey data on this subject, we can shed light on this question. We find that white Southerners who support the Confederate flag are actually less knowledgeable about Southern history; no stronger in their attachments to fellow Southerners (after racial attitudes are taken into account); less tolerant of interracial dating; and more likely to deny that blacks are discriminated against in the labor market.

The Post’s data comes from a survey of 522 white people in Georgia conducted by the Survey Research Laboratory at Georgia State University in 2004:

“This survey was designed to assess opinions about three different potential state flags that were being considered at the time: one of these flags prominently featured the Confederate battle emblem.”

Knowledge about Southern history was measured with two questions:

“Whether the respondent could correctly identify the famous Union general, William Tecumseh Sherman, and the number of Civil War battles the respondent could name.”

In their analysis, the Post discovered that whites  who are more knowledgeable about Southern history are actually less likely to support the Confederate flag. As ignorance increases, so does support for the flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem:

Piston-Strother-MC-sub-Southern-knowledge-graphic (1)

Of whites who were able to name at least two Civil War battles and correctly name General Sherman, only 34 percent preferred the flag that featured the hate symbol. Of those who answered zero questions correctly, support rose to 73 percent.

“White supporters of the Confederate battle emblem are distinguished not by their knowledge of Southern history but rather their ignorance of it,” the Post says.

The Post also found that whites with negative attitude toward black people are more likely to support the symbol of slavery and oppression. Whites who say they would object if their child dated someone of a different race are a whopping 20 percentage points more likely to support the flag than whites who don’t give a f*ck.


“Similarly, among whites who do not believe that blacks are discriminated against in the labor market, support for the Confederate flag is 30 percentage points higher than it is among those whites who believe there is continuing racial discrimination.”

The post found no meaningful relationship between support for the Confederate battle flag and a deep kinship with other southerners. In fact, the only meaningful relationships were between support and racism and ignorance.

Imagine that.

Yes, it is about “heritage” — a heritage of hatred and oppression. The flag represents the “heritage” of people like the Ku Klux Klan, who plan to rally in support of the flag later this month. As we all know, the KKK isn’t the least bit racist. The cross burning they promise to top off their “whites only” flag rally is simply a celebration of the group’s “history” (or something). Aren’t words fun?


Featured Image via The Atlantic