June 24, 2015
Stars and BarsIf the Confederate battle flag must come down because it was flown by an army waging a war to preserve the institution of slavery, then why shouldn’t the U.S. flag also be abandoned?
The U.S. flag or its antecedents were flown:
- by a government that permitted and protected the institution of slavery right up until it did not;
- many of this government’s celebrated founders were slave owners;
- even once slavery was abolished, this government endorsed racially discriminatory policies like segregation right up until it did not; and
- any number of race-related atrocities have been committed under this government’s banner, like Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policies.
Update: Jason Lee Steorts of National Review proposes the following distinction:
No comparison should be made to the American flag, by the way, because even though the United States has done unjust things — including practice slavery — these injustices were not part of its very purpose.
I think Steorts's answer is unsatisfactory. For starters, it is a conclusion masquerading as an argument. Government, of course, has many purposes. But for a government the purpose of which was not promoting injustices, ours nonetheless seems to have been thoroughly involved in their promotion at various times. It seems like a convenient dodge that none of these injustices apparently can be said to impugn its flag, so long as they can be disavowed as not being the "very purpose" of the government the flag represents. And the founding document of this government—the Constitution—explicitly accounted for the institution of slavery (art. I, § 2, cl. 3; art. I, § 9, cl. 1; art. IV, § 2, cl. 3; art. V). That's an odd occurrence for a government the "very purpose" of which was not bound up with the institution.