From Civil Rights to Obama, the Confederate Flag Has Meant One Thing
By Nathalie Baptiste | Jul 17, 2015
Oklahoma was not a part of the old Confederacy, but that historical fact did not stop some from greeting the first black president with the Confederate flag when he arrived in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
The purpose of Obama’s trip to the small town of Durant, Oklahoma was to visit the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and to talk about expanding economic opportunity, which the white protesters seemed to think was a good time to display one of the most prominent symbols of intolerance, hatred, slavery, and racism. And unfortunately, the photo of the battle flags being waved looks eerily similar to multiple such “protests” in America’s bloody and hateful past.
The Confederate flag was re-popularized during the Civil Rights era as a way for Southern states to protest integration. Arkansas, like many other Southern states, was hostile to the desegregation of schools. At Little Rock Central High School, nine black students were prevented from entering the school on September 2, 1957. The next day, a protest was held outside of the high school in which the crowd waved Confederate flags.
President John F. Kennedy had campaigned on equal rights for blacks—earning him the disdain of many white Southerners—and on June 11, 1963, he delivered a civil rights speech calling for equality. On the day of his assassination, just five months later, Kennedy was greeted by a Confederate flag upon his arrival in Dallas.
In March 1965, when Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and countless others marched from Selma to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for black people, hostile whites taunted the marchers, yelled slurs, and proudly waved the Confederate flag.
White people who flew the Confederate flag during the Civil Rights era had very clear intentions. They were against equal rights for black people and invested in maintaining the status quo of white supremacy. Any black person, or any person, advocating for the equality of blacks was often met with a symbol of hate.
We are living in a time when black people are killed by police for traffic violations, a white presidential candidate calls Mexican immigrants rapists (and subsequently surges in popularity), and a white supremacist murders nine people in a historically black church and the media bend over backward looking for a reason to not call him what he is—a racist.
So when the first black president goes to a Southern state and is met with the old Confederate flag, the message is clear: You are not equal. Electing a black man to the highest office of the land was an impressive feat for a country with such an ugly recent history, but we still have a long way to go before blacks are truly equal. The fact that people, under the guise of “heritage,” will still wave a symbol of hatred to protest racial progress is proof.