Mississippi and Alabama recognized Confederate Memorial Day on April 24th by shutting down state offices, state courts, DMVs and most county offices, creating an awkward situation in which some of its citizens were forced to take off a day from work in order to recognize a day of remembrance for the people who fought for them to remain slaves. This came amidst the extremely divisive removal of Confederate landmarks in New Orleans, where workers had to wear body armor to protect themselves as they took down the monuments.
The people holding onto their confederate past claim it is part of their identity and cultural heritage. Their ancestors fought their brothers in America’s bloodiest war before it came together as one union, but they casually omit the fact that they owned human beings and forced them to work to the bone for their gain. And yet, they’re proud of their heritage. It’s a confusing train of logic Trevor Noah nails on The Daily Show with this analogy:
“I never understand this argument. People go: ‘hey, back then they didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know what they were doing was racist.’ First of all, yes they did. But even if they didn’t, you know that now, so what’s your excuse? Why are you putting on the uniform? It’s like saying, ‘you can’t judge a baby for sh*tting in his pants, he didn’t know better… And that’s why today, in honor of that baby, I’m sh*tting my pants!'”
The symbolism of the Confederate flag is different to everyone. Quentin Tarantino called it “America’s Swastika” while others consider it a valuable piece of their identity that they want to hold onto, albeit sometimes against the will of a citizenry who hope to distance themselves from the darkest era in American history.
So which is it? History, or racism? Because no one chisels a monument honoring white supremacy on a whim.