Heritage Or Hate: The Debate Around The Confederate Flag
In a time of profound political polarization, the Confederate Flag remains a divisive topic. The remnants of the Confederacy are still shaping society today. And the flag means vastly different things to different people.
To some, the flag represents years of hatred, hardships, oppression and the fight for equality. To others, it is pride and a celebration of cultural heritage. Here are some of their stories.
Jarvis Rosier recalls the struggle of growing up in the segregated South. He explains during the civil rights era, Florida had more lynchings per capita than any other state. He remembers hearing stories of the so-called "Hanging Tree" outside the Florida Capitol.
"There was a heritage of slavery. There was a heritage of murder. There was a heritage of pillage. There was a heritage of rape. There was a heritage of sodomy."
He, like his brothers and father, fought in the military. Rosier says African Americans have made great strides toward equality, but sees generations before racism is eradicated in America.
Kelly Crocker sees the flag as a tribute to his ancestors who fought in the Civil War. He says hate groups have stolen the true meaning of the Confederate flag. The Sons of Confederate Veterans have a strict anti-discrimination policy. In fact, Crocker notes, they even tried to patent the flag so hate groups couldn't use it.
"I believe if slavery would've been the prominent issue that perhaps President Lincoln would've done something about it as soon as he took office."
Though slavery is often cited as the main cause of the Civil War, Crocker pushes back against that notion. He says it's about unfair tariffs and taxation. Crocker says the Confederacy should be honored because Confederate veterans are American veterans.
Dale Landry saw the Ku Klux Klan parading through Panama City as a child. He remembers the Civil Rights era as a violent time of intense racial tension. For Landry, the Confederate flag brings back so many of those memories.
"Just the image of it sparks post-traumatic stress."
As the president of the Tallahassee chapter of the NAACP, Landry fought to preserve Confederate monuments. He acknowledges the Confederacy has a place in America, but that place is in history.
HK Edgerton is a vocal proponent of Confederate heritage. He says the Confederate flag represents all people of the south - free or slave. Edgerton argues African Americans fought for the Confederacy as well.
Edgerton doesn't support hate groups using the flag, but acknowledges he and groups like the KKK both trace their heritage to the Confederacy.
"They have a First Amendment right of free speech just like I do, and their ancestors fought and died under the flag just like mine did."
Edgerton argues African Americans should "thank God" they were brought to the U.S. during the slave trade. He claims the entire world participated in slavery, yet the blame is pinned on Southern white men.