November 30th, 2011
01:45 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Who decides what's racist?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

iReporter Byron Thomas is a proud Southerner and says he should have the right to hang a Confederate flag in his dorm room at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort.

He's also black.

That might seem like a contradiction, but Thomas says he doesn't think the flag is a racist symbol. "Only an ignorant person can make it racist," he told CNN.

Thomas shared his opinion in a video on CNN iReport and it sparked an interesting conversation.

Many commenters defended Thomas' freedom of speech, but others argued that you can't ignore the flag's history.

Cruddy11: "I see the Confederate flag in the same way I see the swastika. At one time it was an Indian symbol of peace if I recall correctly. Now it embodies evil and genocide. The Confederate flag represented the South and its views on slavery. As a black person or African American, I find it offensive."

But uscitizen1tx argued that the Confederacy wasn't the only guilty party in the slave trade.

"If you want to identify a symbol of slavery you should look to the American flag. It is under that flag and the U.S. Constitution that the deplorable act of slavery was codified."

"I was born and raised in Texas and the Confederate flag is offensive to me,"ImagineIt wrote.

I'll congratulate GoGreen58 who has never witnessed any kind of racism. Good for him. He lives a blessed life. But, I have been witness and subjected to much racism over the years. It's disgusting. It's humiliating. It fills you with anger. And, it makes you feel completely inadequate.
The Confederate flag, however you want to justify the use of it, symbolizes America's past with slavery, Jim Crow laws, and issues with racism (especially in the South).
Like it or not, it does.

Thedon216: I understand your point of view on what you believe. But if it offends others then you should also respect that. Some things are not meant to be forgotten. I live in the North but was born in Miami. I look at that flag and think of the many people black and white who fought against that flag, just so you and I could speak like we are today.

But molinechuck says you can't live your life in fear of offending other people.

"In my neighborhood there is an Irish flag, Mexican Flag, Canadian flag, and one I cannot identify. Who cares? Let the guy fly whatever flag he wants. If people are so insecure, self-centered, or self-righteous that they are "offended" by a Confederate flag it is their problem. People choose what they are offended by and we should not live our lives accommodating other people's insecurities."

What's your take? Join the conversation below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.


Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (142 Responses)
  1. Historian

    I I often wondered about the saying those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. This kid is either a useful idiot or poorly educated. Just the least bit of research into the history of the civil war and his home states role in it would end all reverence for the flag. His home state never mentioned states rights when they seceded except to CONDEMN them because Massachusetts wanted to opt out of the FEDERAL fugitive slave act. Never mentioned tariffs either. They repeatedly mention their state's right to OWN people that looked like him. The VP of the confederacy in his cornerstone speech. Stated the whole purpose of our new nation was to prove Jefferson was WRONG all men are not created equal. I could see if he had to look this up by actually going into a library, but for God's sake they have this thing called Google!

    December 5, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • LowCountrySC71

      The war was about Industry. The fact is that South Carolina,and other southern states who had deep water ports could provide trade year round.Since the begining of time its been about riches and wealth in trading.I think it's funny that more people move from the north to the South everyday.

      February 2, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. George Purvis

    Historian,

    Since you mention that everyone should use Google, I suggest you take your own advice and Google "What I Really Said" By Stephen's. While you are at it perhaps you can tell us where a copy of the original speech can be found.

    George Purvis
    Southern Heritage advancement Preservation and Education

    December 7, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ashley

    I went to school with Byron and he is a dear friend of mine. I agree with Thomas that it is his right to hang which ever flag he wishes in his dorm. Was the Confederate flag ever used to symbolize slavery? No. The Confederate flag is a symbol of the South. Slavery takes place every where in the world and still takes place today. Are we going to pick items or flags of other countries to symbolize as slavery and hate? As for being racist, why are we signaling out one group when many are discriminated against? Mexicans, whites, blacks, and even religions are discriminated against every day.

    December 7, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. George Purvis

    Ashely,

    I just finished posting some of Lincoln's racism at Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education+ General Discussion+Lincoln.

    george Purvis

    December 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Sean O'Reilly

    My son was booted out of the University of Dallas in September due to this same silly issue and he has African and native American blood. It is absolutely absurd that in this day and age when sodomy is accepted and small children are butchered in their mothers' wombs that something as ridiculous as a choice of a flag would even be an issue. But then that is political correctness for you. These kinds of people aren't interested in what is true or false, only in what might be perceived as hate. Hate and non-hate are now the only two moral categories for these pinheads.

    You can sodomize your neighbor in public but God forbid you fly a piece of American history

    December 12, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      I would only like to say that i completely agree.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • bev

      Fly your flag if you want, that's your right. But leave the gay and anti-abortion hatred out of it...you're promoting exactly the kind of hate speech that people associate with the Confederate flag. Stop pushing your values and morals on other people and perhaps they'll stop objecting to your flag and what it represents to them.

      December 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. vwandairshowatlanta

    I lost three grandfathers who served in the Confederate Army. None of them owned slaves. The flag and uniforms are beautiful and the firearms interesting. The Army had brilliant leadership and backed a society that had a combined wealth greater than any European nation. It is scary to me how close they came to winning. I toyed with the idea of jioining the Sons of the Confederacy.

    The bottom line is that the war was about the abolition or the continuation of slavery. Any other viewpoint is fantasy. My thoughts are to leave it alone and let the dead rest in peace.

    December 16, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • kaleb hill

      byron your right man the confederate flag has nothing to do with racism its been trashed by the kkk neo nazis and other hate groups. most peps see the confederacy as a nation standing for slavery but it wasnt. the southern sates fought against a federal goverment that was exerting too much power, and not for the peps our founding fathers created the system of checks and balances to prevent this so the federal goverment woudnt become to powerful its the united staes of american and they were fighting for states rights. its not the federal goverment of american. i dont fly the confederate flag though cause i know it offends others and they think its racist.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. grantahelms

    Recently a Facebook friend posted an article about a "Neochristian" group wanting "good Christians" to relocate to South Carolina to take over the government and secede from the Union again. After reading this, I began to do some research into the group. They appear to have ties to a group called League of the South, who the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a " hate group ". Nothing that I read at the LoS website emanated hatred, unless it was for the US government or the loss of morals in today's society. This also lead me to what is classified as "the official website of the Confederate Government(Confederate States of America.com)". The gentleman at this site claims that the CSA is an occupied nation waiting for a truce from The United States, Inc. He claims that the "general surrender" was for the armies only, because President Jefferson Davis nor Secretary of State John Seward ever surrendered the country. Through this process, I also came across a free E-book called " The Rise and Fall of the Confederate States of America". This book is the autobiographical work of Jefferson Davis, written in 1885, 20 years after the Civil War. This journey has proven to me that ALL AMERICANS, regardless of age, race, creed, national origin or religious beliefs, should take the time to investigate for themselves, not just believe what the "Powers that Be" print in the public text books.

    January 7, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
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