W. C. Jameson: Confederate flag has a new look

Syndicated Columnist
Published Tuesday, May 18, 1999

From time to time in this space we visit the topic of the the South and things Southern, occassionally delving into perceptions as they regard the Confederate flag. Such perceptions are many and varied.

A touchy subject, the Rebel flag, one that is likely to draw passionate responses from a few who hold it in high and sometimes confused reverence.

I have some good news and some bad news for those who regard the Confederate flag so dearly. You know who you are. Some of you are devoted sons of the South and remain loyal to the Southern way of life, whatever that is. A lot of you, embarrassingly, are white supremacists, Ku Kluxers, and members of various hate groups who wave the Confederate flag around as a symbol for your particular nutty cause.

The good news is that the Confederate flag is making a remarkable comeback. What will be perceived as bad news by the hate groups, the free-lance racists, and the closet ethnicists is that the ol' Rebel battle flag is being revived by black entrepreneurs who are employing it as a logo for a line of clothing!

A company called NuSouth has recently trademarked a logo that is equal parts Confederate flag and the red, green, and black colors of the African-American liberation movement. Vertical lines -- looking somewhat like the bars of a prison -- are added to the margins of the NuSouth version of the Confederate flag. Thousands of blacks wore the NuSouth flag-adorned T-shirts at the Million Man March in Washington in 1995, thus generating incredible demand. Ads for NuSouth clothing, all bearing the Rebel Flag with African colors, have recently been spotted in GQ and Rolling Stone. According to the company, however, 70 percent of their sales are to white customers.

The clothing line includes T-shirts, jackets, dress clothes, women's fashions, and caps with the new logo. The owners of the NuSouth company are Sherman Evans, a black man from Ohio, and Angel Quintero, a black man from Cuba. NuSouth is located in South Carolina, a state undergoing a bit of turmoil and controversy over flying the Confederate flag atop the state Capitol.

When some who identified themselves as "prideful Southerners" accused Evans and Quintero of possessing a "shameful in-your-face attitude" and demonstrating lack of respect for the flag, Sherman responded by saying, "It's not about in-your-face, it's about coming together." It's probably also about profit, for the NuSouth line of clothing is one of the hottest things going right now, South or North.

Since the Confederate flag never was the formal flag of any nation, state, country, or republic, but rather that of a geographic area and a state of mind, there are no formally agreed upon rules in existence governing its use. The aforementioned "prideful Southerners" tell me the flag represents "a way of life," however, studies show time and again that Southerners have never been in complete agreement on exactly what a Southern way of life is, or was.

A black scholar stated not long ago that black people make up a significant part of the South's population, are proud to be labeled as Southerners, manifest some of the most passionate and energetic Southern pride ever witnessed by man, and have made thousands of important contributions to the South's current economic, cultural, and social successes. "Quite frankly," he said, "the Confederate flag belongs to blacks just as much as anyone else. Therefore, they ought to have some say in how it is used."

The "way of life" argument proferred by most of the Rebel flag-wavers I'm acquainted with is a weak one and often offered more as an excuse than a reason. There are no other ways of life that boast a flag that I know of.

Some so-called defenders of Southern heritage consider the NuSouth logo an affront and have expressed anger and indignation. Others have adopted a "lighten up" attitude, citing the Civil War has been over for more than 130 years, encouraging the die-hards to get over it, accept the defeat, and move on with their lives.

Important Southern icons, such as the venerated Confederate flag, are, and should be, representative of history. An ongoing problem with the Confederate flag is a large percentage of those that embrace it have little or no idea of the length, breadth and depth of the history and meaning, and far too many others remain selective in their interpretation of Southern history which, in many many ways, is quite grand.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: W.C. Jameson is author of over 30 books, a record producer and is currently writing a musical.)

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