accidental racist

Shameful Accident: Confederate Flag Travesty

You won't find many folk more Southern than I am. I was raised in North Carolina by people who were raised in South Georgia. I say “ y'all” when two or more are gathered; “all y'all” when “y'all” just doesn't seem to be enough. I like hot grits and sweet iced tea. I love the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of white fields of cotton ready for harvest. I greet every person I see; say yes ma'am and no ma'am, yes sir and no sir; and call people I hardly know “honey.” But unlike Brad Paisley, I won't be displaying the Confederate flag on my clothing or otherwise. Ever.

Accidental Racist, a duet by Brad Paisley, a Caucasian country singer and LL Cool J, an African American rapper, makes some great points. The lyrics encourage all of us to get to know individuals instead of judging entire races. Mistakes have been made in this country and the song admits to some of those made between African American and Caucasian citizens. Plus the very fact that these two artists came together on this project, promotes cooperation. All that’s good. Really good.

But then, there’s this.

Paisley sings about the Confederate flag and the misunderstandings and unfair judgments that surround it. He says essentially, “Look, it’s just a symbol of the South. I’m proud to be Southern, I like Southern things (some of which are adorned with the Confederate flag). So don't call me a racist just because I'm sporting this Southern symbol on my clothing or accessories.”

LL Cool J commiserates with Paisley by saying, “Yeah sure, I can look past the flag if you won’t judge my head gear. Deal?”

NO! No Deal!

There is no such thing as “just” a symbol. According to, a symbol is “something that stands for or suggests something else . . . especially: a visible sign of something invisible.” A visible sign of something invisible? Hmmm. So what is invisible in the symbol of the Confederate flag? Well let’s see. Let me think. Oh yeah. HUMAN BONDAGE! And don't give me that brouhaha, “The Confederacy was formed so Southerners could hold on to their agrarian way of life.” That’s just another way of saying, “The South seceded so they could hold on to their slaves.” Really. The whole agrarian lifestyle of the South was built on the broken backs of humans who were considered property.

But let’s acknowledge that the Confederacy wasn't all bad. Here’s something. Did you know African American Soldiers in the CSA (Confederate States of America) were paid the same as white soldiers? Not so in the Union, where African American soldiers earned roughly half what white guys were paid. And I'm sure during those four years (that’s how long the CSA lasted by the way: roughly 48 months) the South enjoyed an increased sense of community built around a common goal to defeat a common enemy. That’s good.

But get this: there were good things that happened during the Third Reich as well. Unemployment was low. The economy was strong. An entire race was annihilated, but that was only part of the history of the Third Reich. So why don't we see German trinkets emblazoned with the Nazi flag? Because that symbol has become synonymous with the Holocaust, that’s why. It’s offensive: because it’s not just a symbol. It’s a visible reminder of something invisible. It matters.

So if Brad Paisley is really “proud of where [he’s] from but not everything we've done” he should wear the NC flag and adorn himself with pictures of the palmetto tree. Heck, he could drape himself with kudzu. But don't promote the Confederate flag. It represents a travesty that makes proud Southerners ashamed.

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

Leave a Comment:

Jeff says June 21, 2015

Lol good points but wrong state lady. South Carolina is the Confederate flag flying palmetto state. NC hasn't flown a Confederate flag since the 1800's, other than on redneck trucks.

    Aileen Lawrimore says June 22, 2015

    Thanks for reading Jeff. I didn't mean to imply that NC flies the Confederate Flag. My point was there are other flags in the south that represent appropriate Southern pride. (I live in NC and graduated from high school in SC where much of my family still lives.) Thanks again for your comment.

Anonymous says June 22, 2015

Actually slaves and African American freedmen were not allowed in the Confederate army until the very end of the even if they were briefly paid equally they made very little ...

Cristopher Merritt says June 24, 2015

why are people still referring to the Saint Andrew's Cross as the Confederate flag? It's not the Confederate flag.

    Aileen Lawrimore says June 24, 2015

    Hi Cris and thanks for reading. According to my research, the emblem most people refer to as the Confederate Flag was never approved by the Confederate States of America as the official flag of the Confederacy. The flag that flies on SC's capitol grounds is actually the Confederate Battle Flag, though many people wrongly assume this was in fact the flag of the Confederacy. As states, "The "Stars and Bars" flag, currently the subject of controversy, was actually the battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia." A number of designs were used as the Confederacy Flag, the last one included the battle flag emblem. This short video on Washington Post's website does a great job of showing the history of the Confederate Flag.

    St. Andrews Cross is also a complicated symbol. The design adopted by the Army of Northern Virginia and later the KKK is sometimes referred to as the St. Andrews Cross, but it seems another of other images also come to mind (or at least appear on a Google search). Here's what my search turned up.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting Cris.

Anonymous says September 27, 2015

Actually the Civil War was an economic war between the North and the South. The South refused to supply the North with the raw goods that were needed to run their factories. Slavery didn't become an issue until the North realized they could no longer benefit from the slave labor. So, in essence, slavery was beside the main issue. That's not to say that slavery wasn't wrong. The Confederate flag is a symbol of the South's independent spirit. It is unfortunate that it has become a symbol for hatred for some people.

    Aileen Lawrimore says September 27, 2015

    Thanks for reading and commenting. The causes of the Civil War have been contested by historians for decades. Some argue that the South, unable to function economically without the slave labor they relied on so heavily, went to war to protect slavery and thereby the Southern economy. ( Others suggest that slavery had little to do with the war; that the issue was state's rights. One thing is readily agreed upon though: the Northerners were not as a rule, anti-slavery.
    Having said that, whatever the causes were, one thing is certain: the flag familiar to most as the flag of the Confederacy, was at most a battle flag, not a national emblem of the South. Still, overtime, it has become the symbol of the Confederacy, whether that was its original intent or not.
    As far as this symbol being recognized as racism, that is also due to usage more than design. Several white supremacist groups use this flag is their banner, thus creating a connection between the flag and racism. It is now somewhat irrelevant as to whether that should be the case or not.
    A great article I consulted is found on one of my favorite websites, one I value for its thorough research and truth in reporting. You can find that article here:
    Thanks again for reading and for adding your voice to the discussion.

A Fourth of July List of 18 Things I Love | Aileen Goes On says November 8, 2016

[…] 11. The South. Flawed though it may be, it is still my home. And I love it. […]

Aileen Lawrimore says January 13, 2018

The following comment was made about this post via Facebook. My response was too lengthy for Facebook, so I've posted both here. Thanks for reading! Aileen

"Cris: a symbol in and of itself is completely meaningless. each person gives 100% of any meaning to any symbol that it has for them. taking offense ruins friendships just as easily as being offensive. I have discussed this with people of different races and I do not expect anyone to agree or disagree with me. If I could have my way .. I would only have you understand my point of view. contempt prior to investigation will keep a person stuck more than anything else. you might consider listening with an open mind. for example the swastika .. something historically ugly (that might have a lesser emotional charge or prejudice among Americans). We all pretty much agree that this symbol is a symbol of horrific mindset. And yet .. tell that to the Lady Swastikas from Fernie BC. 1923 women's hockey champions of the Alpine Winter Cup at Baniff Winter Carnival. The swastika is still used as a religious symbol and it included in several Asian alphabets. Point .. and too late to make a long story short. A symbol is nothing more than a meaningless image until you .. one person at a time .. gives it 100% of it's meaning for you. You do not have the ability to give me my meaning for any symbol. It simply is not your function. That is what the Bible means when it says to keep your attention on your own flaws and ... (the proverbial log in the eye) .. overlook the flaws or your neighbor. We cannot judge .. it simply is not our function as God's Children."

My response:

Thanks for your comment Cris. According to conventional wisdom (including webster's online dictionary), there are various definitions of the word "symbol." Perhaps that's where we diverge.

However, saying that a symbol "in and of itself is completely meaningless" and that "each person gives 100% of any meaning to any symbol" is, in my opinion, self-contradictory. That is to say, you have used letters--or symbols--to write these words. These words--symbols made up of symbols--have meanings (assigned, yes, but ones we, as speakers of English, have accepted). If I were to say to you, for example, that for me, "%" does not mean "percent"; instead, the meaning I give it is "iguana," you would--rightly--dismiss my meaning as irrelevant.

Further, the example you give of the hockey team predates the Third Reich's adaptation of the swastika symbol. I think if we were to go back and time and "tell that to the Lady Swastikas," they would be thoroughly flummoxed, wondering what a political prisoner in Munich had to do with the Winter Carnival in BC.

Similarly, the # sign meant "number" or "pound" for at least the last few decades--maybe longer. Now it has a different use. Whether I like it or not, "#symbols" now means "whatever I just said or am about to say has to do with symbols." Yes, at one time #symbols would have been read as "number symbols" or "pound symbols." But now, it has a new meaning, one that is currently far more common.

I believe that if we each--"one person at a time"--get to designate our own personal meaning to each symbol, then communication would become terribly difficult. Math would be impossible. Emoji's would be useless. And the entire advertising and marketing profession would be paralyzed--no more Nike Swoosh, Golden Arches, or Geiko Gecko.

Also, Cris, I firmly believe that you have the right to do whatever you like with the banner known commonly as the Confederate Flag (though it actually was only a battle flag, but that's another discussion), or even the swastika for that matter. (First Amendment. It's a good one.) I just disagree that the meaning of a symbol fluctuates radically from person to person. Still, I appreciate the dialog! Thanks again for your comment.

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