MANY will recognise its pattern on the roof of the car in hit show, Dukes of Hazzard, but the Confederate battle flag has a dark, violent and divisive history – which is causing alarm because it is being seen more and more often in America.
Supporters of Donald Trump have sparked outrage by waving the symbol, which has been banned by Amazon because of its association with white supremacist killers and the Ku Klux Klan. Here’s what we know…
What is the Confederate flag?
The flag is based on battle flags used by a number of armies in the American civil war between Southern slave-owning states and the rest of the Union in the north.
The most well known was the banner flown by General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
It bore the familiar white stars on a blue cross set against a red background.
After the war it became a symbol of rebel pride and was also known as the Dixie flag and the Southern Cross.
Later in the early 20th century it was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan as it waged a white supremacist terror campaign against black people.
Its appearance in the 1939 film Gone With The Wind inspired a widespread nostalgia for the flag as a symbol of the Old South.
Supporters who use it today say it represents Southern US heritage and the sovereignty of individual states.
It still appears in the corner of the official flag of Mississippi, the only US state flag that includes it since Georgia changed its design in 2001.
Why is the Confederate flag considered racist?
Although some take pride in its history, the battle flag also became a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy in the United States.
Today neo-Nazi groups often display it alongside swastikas and other race hate motifs.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Confederate battle flag “is one of the most controversial symbols from US history.
It states: “To many white Southerners, the flag is an emblem of regional heritage and pride.
“But to others, it has a starkly different meaning — representing racism, slavery and the country’s long history of oppression of African Americans.”
It adds: “It’s difficult to make the case today that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol.”
It was widely used by those who opposed the end of racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s – at the same time as it began to be flown over state capitols and city halls across the South.
Debate over the controversial symbol arose again when white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine worshippers at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015.
He had posed with the flag and called for a “race war”.
In February 2017, a couple were jailed for terrorising a child’s birthday party by carrying Confederate flags and shouting racist slogans.
The makers of HBO’s hit drama Game Of Thrones faced a backlash over their new show, entitled Confederate, which was announced in the wake of criticism over the lack of diversity in GoT.
Where has the Confederate flag been banned?
The toxic association with racists has meant the flag is increasingly seen as offensive in much of the United States.
It made it its way into the US Capitol Building, something that didn’t happen during the Civil War, for the first time ever on January 6, 2021, after Donald Trump supporters stormed in.
In the wake of the Charleston shooting in 2017, the state governor ordered the Confederate flag be removed from display at the Carolina State House where it had flown for 54 years.
The governor of Alabama ordered a similar ban.
Leading US retailers including Walmart, Sears Amazon and Ebay announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise in 2015.
Johnna Hoff of eBay said the flag had “become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism”.
And a US cable channel ditched repeats of 1980s kids’ show Dukes of Hazzard because the flag appears on the roof of the iconic orange Dodge Charger called General Lee.
John Schneider, one of the stars of the series, said he was “saddened and angry” at the “overly PC” edict.
He blasted: “Are people who grew up watching the show now suddenly racists?”
In 2016 a Trump supporter was ordered to take his flag down at a rally in Florida.
Hundreds of other supporters proudly waved the flag during the 2016 election and after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
In November 2016 a policeman in Michigan had to quit after he flew one on his pickup truck while off-duty.
In April 2017, the schools board in Orange County, California, said it was considering banning the flag after it was used to bully kids.
And, in this country, Geordie Shore’s Marnie Simpson shocked viewers by wearing a Kanye West Yeezus 2013 tour jacket with a Confederate flag on the sleeve.
The House of Representatives voted to ban the display of Confederate flags on flagpoles at Veterans Administration cemeteries in 2016.
In 2020, the US Navy also banned it in all public places on installations, ships, and aircraft.
And during the George Floyd protests in 2020, Nascar announced that it would no longer permit the display of Confederate flags at its events.
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