The Confederate Flag in Indiana: Southern Pride or Blatant Racism?Posted on: April 27, 2019, by : Jeff Turner
By Jeff Turner
I was driving through Thorntown, Indiana with a friend earlier this month. A small town in northwestern Boone County with a relatively small population (about 1,500), the town stands out little among the dozens of others like it (interestingly enough, it does bear a rather striking resemblance to Kirklin, Indiana, a town of less than 1,000 located in nearby Clinton County). On this particular day though I happened to notice, prominently displayed from a flagpole in front of a modest dwelling, a Confederate flag (after this incident, I learned that Thorntown, along with Lebanon, was one of two Boone County towns that attracted newly freed slaves after the civil war, a Colored Cemetery even located near the town, according to a Genealogy Trails History Group article, which makes the presence of the flag all the more disconcerting). My reaction of disgust and revulsion did seem to puzzle my passenger. Though preferring the term libertarian she’d honestly qualify as Republican, though that’s beside the point. Her reaction however, was puzzling. She asked, albeit somewhat half-interested, if the flag wasn’t meant to represent “Southern Pride”? Being a person of color, that flag to me represents racism plain and simple. The people who I’ve met who proudly display the flag don’t do so out of “Southern Pride,” at least not here in Indiana. This argument of Southern Pride just doesn’t hold water with me, considering that that same flag was adopted as the symbol of resistance to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. If that doesn’t put to rest the “Southern Pride” argument, I don’t know what will. In fact, I don’t know why people in Indiana, a state that fought on the side of the Union in the Civil War would have any reason to cling to an outdated symbol of the losing side of that conflict. In Germany, the Nazi flag has been banned. Why is the Confederate flag not relegated to a museum as even several Republican politicians have suggested? I decided to ask Indiana residents their thoughts on the Confederate flag, and received some interesting answers.
“Flying the flag here is especially weird,” said Radomir Jordanovic, an Indianapolis resident. When asked about the Southern Pride argument, he said “I don’t emphasize with the Southern Pride argument except that I worry about their education system misleading them to feel that way.”
“We were Unionists,” said an IU alumnus and former Bloomington resident I spoke to. “I don’t think it has a place (here in Indiana), definitely doesn’t need to be displayed… But we all have freedom of expression, so there isn’t much that can be done to individuals…”
A fair point, but still doesn’t give justification for the Southern Pride argument. Bloomington, while it does have a fairly liberal population due to being a college town, does have similarities to other Indiana towns like Thorntown. It isn’t unheard of to see Confederate flags on display in the town. One story I do recall hearing while I was living in Bloomington was how a vehicle adorned with confederate symbols was vandalized by unknown assailants. Towns like Bloomington seem to more accurately depict the polarization of the electorate that led to the election of Donald Trump. White supremacists have been seemingly emboldened since the election of Donald Trump, becoming more brazen, though it may be that people are just paying more attention to racism than they were previously, white people that is.
In regards to the “Southern Pride” argument, however, the Bloomington resident I spoke to said “their heritage was built on some awfully bad things. The unique culture can be expressed in other ways. They were treasonous by succeeding from the Union. The flag is a symbol of that as well as slavery.”
So what can be done? What should be done? The only answer would seem to be community outreach, getting out there and meeting people, hearing alternative points of view. According to census data, Thorntown only has one African-American resident. Maybe if people got out of their comfort zones, their “bubbles,” and tried to empathize with their fellow human beings, more productive dialogue could be had and a solution to this matter of whether or not to display that battle flag of a dead and vanquished army who fought to defend the right to succeed from the Union to allow for the continuation of slavery can be decided upon.
This harkens back to the flag is racist argument. To be fair though, the American Flag was prominently displayed at rallies held by the KKK during their heyday also, alongside the Confederate flag.
In reality, this matter should have been brought to rest long ago. I am tired of seeing this flag on display in the Hoosier state, or anywhere for that matter. Retire the Stars and Bars to a museum. What good has honestly come from continuing to fly it?