Opinion: Study the Confederacy, don't idolize it

Carolyn Culbertson / The Daily Gamecock

This past weekend we saw the “Flags Across the South” take to the Statehouse grounds to display Confederate flags and memorabilia. It was only four short years ago the Confederate flag was seen flying over our capital city, and I am personally glad to see it has found a home elsewhere. That being said, I do not believe that we should burn these flags or remove historical markers containing information about the Confederacy. 

Seeing the Confederate flag is appropriate for a certain place and time; however, over our capital is not one of them.

There should not be statues idolizing these secessionist generals. Instead of naming streets and buildings after members of the Confederacy, it would be more appropriate for them to have a heavier presence in textbooks and museums — not on bumper stickers and hats. It is imperative to better educate ourselves and our children as to what atrocities they committed and stood for if we ever want to repair the divide in this nation. 

There should not be any confusion as to why the Civil War was fought. It is mind-boggling to me that there are adults who are not aware that this war was rooted solely in the issue of slavery. This goes to show that educators need to provide accurate historical facts to all students to make it clear there is no gray area. You simply cannot “agree to disagree” about why the Civil War happened. Sure, the argument of state’s rights technically is valid; however, the rights those states wanted were to hold people enslaved like animals. We cannot pretend slavery was not the reason that more than 620,000 Americans lost their lives. It is crucial to stop living in denial and accept factual evidence for what it is. 

I believe if we improve our historical education and make resources more readily available to everyone, we will see fewer scenarios of those who believe that they are representing “heritage” and not hate. I truly believe this would open the door to the possibility of them acknowledging that aspects of their heritage are rooted in economic greed and hate. Schools should spend an adequate amount of time addressing the consequences of the Civil War and its aftermath. This is not a topic that can be covered in a short lesson. If people understood the full story and could realize why these flags are so dangerous in the wrong context, we would be much better off.

America must learn to stop being in denial. The Confederacy may no longer exist today, but it transformed America as we know it and still affects the present. We need to be able to have these hard conversations and face the truth if we ever want to grow. Robert E. Lee should not be seen as a glamorous war hero that you want to wear on a t-shirt. This man belongs in history textbooks, documentaries, museums, etc. Now is the time to have that epiphany to fully acknowledge our nation’s history and not idolize falsehoods. 

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