when heritage is hate: virginia governor declares "confederate history month"

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Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

when heritage is hate: virginia governor declares "confederate history month"

i grew up here in arkansas. in the south. in one of the so-called confederate states of america. growing up, these things were quite self-evident. from confederate flags waving proudly on bubba’s chevy stepside truck to the idolization of the dukes of hazard’s general lee to—on the very serious end of things—seeing nooses hung at church camp one year when a black student attended. yes, indeed, i grew up in arkansas.

that one particular year at camp (i was probably in 6th grade or so) when the nooses were displayed (leading to the lone black student calling home weeping in a state of confusion and betrayal), we had a subsequent large group conversation in which the behavior was discussed. strangely, though, what i remember most prominently is that, whereas the behavior was vaguely condemned, one of the counselors uttered the phrase, “it’s heritage, not hate,” excusing the behavior as misplaced pride in our heritage.

one of the counselors.

from that time on, i’ve seen that phrase printed on shirts, hats, bumper stickers and any other print means that rednecks have figured out how to manufacture. it’s produced a culture of we-can-explain-away-anything in the name of personal expression or celebration of regional culture. that culture has led to such things as, for example, a robert e. lee parade in cabot one year on martin luther king, jr. day. seriously.

on a bigger level, though, virginia governor bob mcdonnell declared april as “confederate history month” for his state.

to recap, a governor of a state in the united states of america has declared a month in which its people are to fondly look back and learn about one of the most grim, sad times in our nation’s relatively brief history. way to go, bob!

whenever someone begins to make a connection of slavery to the civil war and the secession of the confederate states, some slanted history person comes out of the woodworks and wants to convince you that the confederacy wasn’t about slavery. it was just a itty bitty minor piece of the bigger puzzle. it was about state rights and tariffs, right? nobody’s buying that. the reality is that slavery was the central issue that all others revolved around. yes, state right, tariffs, expansionism and other aspects were certainly contributors to the confederacy, but it was about slavery.

it was about god-fearing southerners having the god-ordained right to own black people and trade them like animals or goods. let’s just keep it real.

so when one of the top-level leaders in our country declares an entire month to be dedicated to the celebration of confederate history, i (and many, many others) are naturally disturbed.

we should absolutely, 100% learn about the secession, the civil war and the circumstances surrounding the issue in schools, but it should be remembered as a sad time, as a regrettable time, as a time when our country should be ashamed of our ignorant, amoral and sinful actions. we should learn and talk openly about the actions of adolf hitler and the holocaust, but—just like slavery in the united states—in should (and largely is) viewed as a grim reminder of when people lost their way.

the confederacy is a modern-day symbol of hate. it’s why hate groups embrace it. it’s the same reason hate groups embrace the swastika. let’s lay down these symbols, but moreover, let’s discontinue our celebration of this dark time in our nation’s past.

when heritage is hate, it’s time to find something new to celebrate.


  1. erniebufflo says:

    Whenever I hear the phrase "heritage, not hate," I think of Nazis. To their great grandchildren today, that's heritage. What about the people of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Is genocide their heritage?

    I have ancestors who were confederate soldiers. While I'm sure they were just making the best choices they could with what they knew at the time, I'm not proud of this. The Confederacy fought to enshrine an evil system based upon treating an entire race of people as chattel, with cruelty, violence, and rape. There is no amount of linguistic gymnastics that can change that. Any time people wave around the Confederate flag, they are waving around something that symbolizes to a whole group of people a very hurtful, painful, and terrifying time in which their ancestors were literally seen as things instead of people. I don't get how any loving person could want to wave that around knowing it could hurt even one person who saw it.

  2. Brad says:

    History is written by the winners. The civil war was painted by the winners as a war about slavery and southern aggression, when in fact it was about state's rights. Without the spin from the north (who actually legally owned slaves after the emancipation proclamation and the end of the Civil War), the battle flag of the confederacy would not have the stigma attached to it that is does. It is unfortunate that so many groups use the symbol as a sign of hatred, and equally unfortunate that those on the other side do not take the time to learn the full history of the Civil War.

  3. erniebufflo says:

    I don't buy the "states rights" argument. Southerners pushed for and got passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, which gave the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT the responsibility to hunt down and return fugitive slaves found in the north to their slavemasters in the south. You can read more about how the Fugitive Slave Act nullifies the "it was about states rights" argument right here.

  4. erniebufflo says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, most states expressly mentioned slavery in their declarations of secession. If you're gonna say it was about states' rights, you have to keep in mind the most important states' right of all was the right to own slaves.

  5. Brad says:

    The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a law that gave a
    method of enforcement to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, which was an attempt to enforce Article 4, Section 2 of the US Constitution. It took more than just the "southern push" to enact both of these laws. I have read many of Mr. Foner's opinions on the Civil War and the issues surrounding it, he neglects to consider that the southern states felt that all states should be held to the US Constition that all states ratified. It was the decision of the northern states to not abide by the agreement that ultimately led to the beginning of the secession. The southern states, prior to secession, recognized the obligation to abide by and enforce all provisions of the Constitution but also to keep the federal government from expanding their power to provisions not made in the founding documents. I don't support the actions of the north or the south in the Civil War era, I do not support slavery in any form, but I do know that a lot of honorable men faught and died on both sides and it is not right to throw everyone who faught for the confederacy under the bus as a pro-slave nutjob. I recommend anyone who is so outraged by this to research the history of Virginia and why they chose to fight on the side of the Confederacy. Here is the best link I could find from my phone: http://www.janus.umd.edu/Feb2002/Cote/01.html

  6. Aaron Reddin says:

    I had one of those ultra-lame shirts growing up. Even owned a few "rebel flags". I would have told you the same stupid line. "heritage not hate"…..

    Until I spent time in the military, I didn't realize how much hate I had. But it was there that I learned very quickly that all flesh and blood is of equal value.

    That's just another token cliche' phrase, much like the ones you'll here in the Church that are used to try and appease one's own guilt.

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