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Confederate flag remains symbol of hate to many today

by W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday February 27, 1999.

NEDERLAND—While I usually would leave editorials for others to, write, I feel a need to express an opinion about use of the Confederate flag.

I remember when I first left for the Army early in 1942, a drill sergeant from New York called me a "Rebel." I remember too that his appellation made me recoil in intense anger, but being an Army private, I had no choice but to keep silent.

I wanted to tell him that Southeast Texans of my generation were Americans, not "rebels"—that the Civil War had been over for 75 years, and that in view of the war we were in, there was no cause to rekindle it.

I knew too that in 1910, his parents were still spreading the hatreds common to their corner of Europe, and that he had no family involvement in the American Civil War.

I remember too the heartbreak caused by that war on both sides of my family. I was told that some relatives refused to speak to each other again as long as they lived.

While some of my great uncles fought for the South—two died at the Battle of Mansfield—others remained true to the North. Great-Grandpa Dunc Smith served the North because of his hatred of slavery. He had a Confederate price tag on his head.

Although some of his sons were drafted into the Confederate army at Sabine Pass, Great-Grandpa Block refused the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy, stating: "I came to the United States to be a part of it, not to fight against it!"

I can understand the use of Confederate flags during a Civil War battle re-enactment, and I have been a part of such re-enactments myself. Why, however, does a Southern state need to fly a Confederate flag at the masthead over its state capitol building?

I try to remember that for millions of Americans, that flag is still a symbol of infamy and the fight to maintain slavery. Hence its use as a symbol of defiance is bound to inflame many people

Only last month I saw on television news 10 Ku Klux Klansmen, demonstrating in an Indiana town, wearing full face masks, and proudly displaying the Confederate flag as their symbol of hate. The sight of the Ku Klux Klan and opposing New Black Panthers has been observed in Southeast Texas lately.

I remember too about 1925, when the Klan was in "full flower" with about 5 million members, and the head or "grand dragon" of the Indiana Klan was that state’s political "kingmaker." Suddenly the kingmaker, that organization’s "protector of white womanhood," brutally tortured and murdered a woman.

His action so disgusted and disgraced Klansmen everywhere that most KKK "klaverns" or local chapters voted themselves out of existence. Klan membership plummeted to less than a quarter million within a year.

Another symbol that infuriates World War II veterans is the sight of American "skin-heads" wearing the Nazi swastika as their symbol of hate. It could be flying over the capitol in Washington, D.C., if many thousands of Americans had not died to prevent it.

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W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author. His website is http://block.dynip com/wtblockjr/ .

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Copyright 1998-2023 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, the material published on this site is copyrighted by William T. Block.
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