“Black identity-mongers…are creating a phony history and phony traditions as escapes from very real problems of drugs, violence and social degeneration in the ghettos of the 1990s.” So wrote black columnist and philosopher Thomas Sowell in 1995.
In 1991, amid internal strife, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) finally found something to unite them. It was not black violence, the high crime statistics from their communities, fatherless homes, poverty, drug use, or any number of other issues that faced them then and now. No, the issue chosen to focus their resources on that would bring about the “advancement” of their people was opposition to the Confederate flag.
The association adopted a resolution to “commit their legal resources to the removal of the Confederate flag from all public properties.”
Thereafter the furor over the flag would broaden through the nineties and into the 21st Century into an attack on all things Confederate. In 1997, Tennesseean Don Hinkle published Embattled Banner: A Reasonable Defense of the Confederate Battle Flag. At that time the author wrote, “The issue has reached a critical stage.” It is instructing me to go back, 23 years later, and see what has transpired since then.
“No More” were the words I kept scratching in my notes while reading this book in 2020. Among other things, Hinkle wrote in 1997 that there was a significant number of college professors willing to still defend the flag. “The Southern culture still flourishes.” “Most Southerners know their history.” He cited a 1994 poll showing about 78 percent of Americans viewed the flag as a symbol of Southern pride. He noted its presence in the U.S. armed forces and its popularity with college students. He listed many victories prior to the book’s publication by flag supporters.
Over and over, for all the positives listed for heritage defenders, the sober two-word assessment fits: “No More.”
The nineties did, indeed, contain many victories for those of us willing to sacrifice and fight to defend the flag and our heritage. But a new generation has taken hold, and by 2015 the resistance to leftist attacks largely went limp as white Southerners got tired of fighting and being called names while the younger generation, thoroughly shellshocked from the assault on their ancestors they had endured from the public school system, emerged from those institutions hating themselves.
In the details of some of those heritage battles, Hinkle notes the experience of the futility of attempting to appease the mob. The blood of compromise stirred and excited the sharks in the waters, encouraging them to press and expand their attacks.
Hinkle did an admirable job standing up for what is known as the Confederate battle flag (perhaps most popularly known as simply the Confederate flag). He traces the Biblical and Celtic origins of the St. Andrew’s Cross from the British isles to the southern section of the “new world,” where those hardscrabble pioneers settled a land that would become known as Dixie.
The majority of Hinkle’s book is a little elementary for most readers of The Abbeville Institute, although for a novice just beginning an attempt at enlightenment from the morass of what passes for an “education” these days it serves as an adequate primer on the basics of Confederate history and heritage.
It is his treatment of a mostly forgotten episode from that decade in his final chapter that evokes the most interest.
Michael Westerman was a nineteen-year-old man from the southwestern part of Kentucky near the Tennessee border — the same area where Jefferson Davis was born. He was married with two infant twins. On January 14, 1995, Westerman and his wife were riding in his pickup truck with the Confederate flag flying from its body when accosted on the road by two carloads of young black assailants who were no doubt seeking the advancement of their people by targeting the flag.
Michael was shot, a .32-caliber bullet piercing his heart and lodging in his right lung. Incapacitated behind the wheel, his wife had to maneuver his body out of the way and position herself in the driver seat so she could steer the truck to safety as her husband died.
All occupants of the two opposing vehicles were subsequently indicted by a grand jury. They cited the flag as the reason they targeted Michael, otherwise unknown to them. Two of the defendants made bond but, still oppressed by the Confederate flag, were arrested that September for felony weapons possession, trafficking drugs on school property, and trafficking cocaine.
Hinkle documents the anguish of the family as the trial proceeded, and the growing sense that Michael was the one being put on trial by the media and race opportunists, who used the atrocity to ramp up their cultural assaults. An out-of-town activist named Louis Coleman filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office in Missouri (overseeing Kentucky) wanting all Confederate symbols removed at eighteen different schools throughout Kentucky, including the rebel mascot at Todd County, where Michael had attended.
There were plenty of local folks who came to the defense of Michael, his family, and Southern heritage. Attempting to clarify what the real focus should have been, Carlie Butler of Hopkinsville wrote to a local paper, “Now, the issue is not whether the Confederate symbol is offensive to some; the issue is whether public officials can be blackmailed into action by criminal behavior…We cannot allow other people to tell us what we must think.”
In other words, the primary issue was not whether the flag of dead Confederate soldiers was deemed acceptable vehicle paraphernalia to a group of criminals, but that those criminals murdered a man driving down the road by shooting him in the chest while his horrified, helpless wife was sitting beside him.
The strategy inaugurated by those purportedly seeking the “advancement” of their people in 1991 has been immensely successful in accomplishing its mission regarding the removal of the Confederate flag and vestiges of Confederate heritage. But what about the overall goal of advancement?
In the culture wars and political divisions since the left has made strides feeling better about themselves by projecting evil onto groups of people they do not like or care to understand. But has this success resulted in the betterment of black people? Look at those same numbers from the aforementioned categories and come to your own conclusion. Furthermore, the message continuously drummed into our heads by the left and the elites as we enter the third decade of this century is that those oppressed are oppressed at even higher levels. There is no justice. There is no peace. They cannot breathe. The phony history and phony traditions referenced by Thomas Sowell a quarter of a century ago have morphed into completely false narratives that regulate society today while our “leaders” are browbeaten, cowed, and terrified by mob justice into selling out whatever the mob targets.
Hinkle quoted Confederate General John B. Gordon: “…man is so constituted, the immutable laws of our being such, that to stifle the sentiment and extinguish the hallowed memories of a people is to destroy their manhood.”
Descendants of Confederate soldiers today would do well to take an assessment of where we are, how attempts at “compromise” have worked out for us, and whether General Gordon’s application is fitting.