There was one thing that struck me more than anything else in Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic: the story of Freddie Morrow and Michael Westerman. The most basic version of the story is that one night at a gas station Freddie saw Michael and his wife, Hannah, at a gas station sitting in their truck. As Horwitz describes it, “The pickup was hard to miss: a big red Chevy 4×4 with a jacked-up chasis, a rebel-flag license plate, and a large rebel flag flapping from a pole in the truck’s bed.” Having had enough of the racial animosity in Todd County, Freddie took out a gun and shot Michael that night, landing him a sentence of life imprisonment for murder.
This story immediately prompted me to start asking questions of myself. Do I think it is right that Freddie shot Michael given what the flag and the waving of the flag means to African Americans? Do I think Michael was wrong in flying the flag in the first place given that there is no law against it and two wrongs ever make a right? As the week progressed I decided that I wanted to see what my generation had to say about this and if it was still an issue ten years later outside the realms of academia.
I first posted it this question on my facebook page: do you think the Confederate flag (used during the Civil War) should be able to be flown in the South? The Confederate Flag represents states’ rights, but also offends some people as it represents a time of slavery. The answers ranged from some saying that it should be the South’s freedom to fly it to they should be respectful of everything that it represents, not just fighting for the Constitution and preservation of states’ rights.
I then decided to go and see what the United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of the Confederate Veterans had to say, given that we had just read Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture. It should not have come as a surprise, then, when I found that the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s website does not even acknowledge that slavery even happened nor how the flag represents that time in history. In their webpage on why the Civil War is called “The War between the States,” the UDC does not even mention slavery or African Americans. Furthermore, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans’ (SCV) website includes a resolution on the battle flag that was just passed in September of 2010 that denounces any extremist group trying to use the flag.
To me, especially with the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, this seems extremely hypocritical. The Sons specifically say that they do not want an extremist group using the flag in inappropriate ways, but what if African Americans see the SCV as just that? It seems like that the UDC and SCV are trying to honor their heritage while prohibiting another to do just that. They are able to honor their ancestors, yet by doing so, they are relinquishing that right from African Americans who want to honor their great-grandfathers rather than ignore it ever happened. What makes one heritage more important than the other? Furthermore, is the SCV and UDC doing the exact same thing they are so vehemently opposed to? They try to preserve states’ rights, yet by ignoring half of the history behind the Civil War, they are pushing their values and norms on the African Americans all across the South.
I can only sum up this problem in one critical way. What if a German citizen wanted to bear the flag of Nazi Germany throughout his/her neighborhood that also had Jewish citizens living within it? Just because they have the right to, does that make it right in terms of common courtesy and historical awareness?
I do not think this issue is going to be solved anytime soon, but if we just choose to ignore it and not even realize it is there, then we will be ignoring history that is being made in the present day.
 Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic (New York: Vintage Books, 1999), 94.
 Horwitz, 122.
 Sons of the Confederacy, “Battle flag Resolution From Anderson Reunion,” http://www.scv.org/pdf/2010BattleFlagResolution.pdf (accessed June 21, 2012).