Everyone is weighing in on the horrific murders in Charleston and blaming the mindset of the mass murderer on wider social pathologies. After the airing of the racist crackpot ideas of the unhinged Dylann Roof, calls have gone out to ban the public flying of the battle flag of the Old Confederacy, which has also been incorporated in various forms in four state flags. Perhaps we should step back and eschew symbolism that separates us by race rather than unites us as fellow citizens.
Aside from the specious argument that the flag, along with media like Fox News and talk radio, fuels homicidal maniacs like Roof, there is quite another question: whether implicit state endorsement of Confederate symbolism offers sanction for the old idea of an apartheid nation, and thus sends entirely the wrong message of American separatism rather than unity. While many Southerners object that the flag simply proclaims the battlefield honor of those who were defending their homeland, the Confederacy was so entwined with the idea of preserving slavery that the flag, even today, can evoke racial polarization. For all the Southern patriots who understandably see in the Confederate battle flag the historical resonance of Pickett’s Charge or the resistance to Sherman’s March to the Sea, there are probably just as many who equally understandably consider it a nostalgic icon of white supremacy. In a racially diverse society, it makes sense to phase out state sanction for the battle flag — as South Carolina governor Nikki Haley advocated yesterday, in calling on the state legislature to vote for the removal of the battle flag that has been flying over the grounds of the state capitol.
But perhaps we should not stop there, given increasing ethnic tensions and widening racial fault lines. There are plenty of other overt racialist symbols that separate Americans. One is the prominent use of La Raza, “The Race” — seen most prominently in the National Council of La Raza, an ethnic lobbying organization that has been and is currently a recipient of federal funds. The National Council of La Raza should be free to use any title it wishes, but it should not expect the federal government to subsidize its separatist nomenclature.
The pedigree of the term La Raza is just as incendiary as that of the Confederate battle flag. The Spanish noun raza (cf. Latin radix: “root” or “race”) is akin to the now-discarded German use of Volk, which in the early 20th century came to denote a common German racial identity that transcended linguistic and cultural affinities: To be a real member of the Volk one had to “appear” German, in addition to speaking German and possessing German citizenship.
La Raza is just such a racialist term. It goes beyond a common language and country of origin, and thus transcends the more neutral puebla (“people”: Latin populus) or gente (“people”: Latin gens). Raza was deliberately reintroduced in the 1960s to promote a racially superior identity of indigenous peoples and mestizos born in the Spanish-speaking countries of the New World. That is why the National Council of La Raza once had a close affinity with MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), the infamous racialist U.S. student group (its ironic motto is “Unity creates strength”), some of whose various past slogans (cf. the Castroite derivative “Por La Raza todo, Fuera de La Raza nada”) finally became sources of national embarrassment.
La Raza is now a calcified separatist slogan, one full of implications that are unworthy of taxpayer support.
The use of the phrase La Raza reflects its illiberal modern origins. It came into popular currency during the 1930s in Spain, when the Fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco wished to promote a new Iberian identity that went well beyond the commonality of Spanish citizenship and fluency in the Spanish language. Franco expropriated La Raza to promote the racist idea that the Spanish were a superior people by birth. He penned a crackpot novel, Raza, embodying Fascist and racist themes of Spanish genetic and cultural superiority. La Raza appeared on the big screen in the form of a hokey 1942 Spanish-language movie, full of racist themes, anti-Americanism, and fashionable Fascist politics.
But Franco was only channeling another, more famous contemporary Fascist, Benito Mussolini, who had his own Italian version of the term, la Razza. In 1938 Mussolini published his Manifesto della Razza (“The Racial Manifesto”), which defined Italians as a superior Aryan race and excluded Italian Jews, Africans, and other supposedly less pure groups from various positions in the Italian government.
In sum, the word “Raza” has a disturbing recent history, and that is why Spaniards and Italians today have dropped its common usage. Yet that well-known association with racial chauvinism was precisely why the founders of the National Council of La Raza, by their own admission, reawakened the word in the 1960s to focus on what they saw as a particular racial category of Spanish speakers. But La Raza is now a calcified separatist slogan, one full of implications that are unworthy of taxpayer support.
One wonders why in 2015 there is still nomenclature such as “the Congressional Black Caucus,” over half a century after the civil-rights movement sought to promote integration and the idea that Americans should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.. The Caucus ostensibly seeks to ensure the end of exclusion by race from full participation in American society by creating a lobbying group focused entirely on one particular race. The postmodern rationale is either that groups that have suffered past disfranchisement and discrimination should not be subject to current anti-discriminatory protocols, or that they should at least enjoy a compensatory period of exclusion from color-blind values to offset centuries of oppression.
The premise seems to be that African-American House members seek to promote a common “black” agenda that transcends their local, county, or state interests.
Thus the group’s membership is entirely race-based. The Caucus is not open to those members of the House of Representatives who are not African-American, but who might share the Caucus’s racial or political agenda — as the Jewish-American Representative Steven Cohen learned when he was elected to Congress in 2006. The Lebanese-American Ralph Nader was once attacked at a Caucus meeting in clearly racial terms on the understanding that the group was exempt from charges of racism. How far is the racial concept transferable — “the Asian Caucus”? “the Latino Caucus?” “the White Caucus?” “the European-American Caucus”? The premise seems to be that African-American House members seek to promote a common “black” agenda that transcends their local, county, or state interests. If an Asian, white, or Latino voter’s congressional representative is a member of the “Black Caucus,” does that mean that the voter will receive less attention than a black voter — as de facto white caucuses in the Old South most certainly did ignore the interests of their non-white constituents? Is that why conservative African-American legislators who see all their constituents in terms that transcend race tend to avoid joining the Caucus? Could not the “Black Caucus” rebrand itself as the “Civil Rights Caucus” or the “Progressive Caucus”?
Once you start allowing one side, the Left, to define what is and what isn’t a racist symbol, guess what happens?
It is worth your time.
More proof that race, like ALL the other hot-buttons the left uses, is not important but for the political advantage it can yield.
@Nanny G: Let the people of South Carolina decide if this flag should fly over the state capital.
Just out of curiosity, what would you say about a state’s decision to fly the Nazi flag at its capital?
Could Jewish citizens of the state reasonably demand that such a flag NOT be flown?
Even if the state had a significant population of American Indians whose use of the Swastika far predates Nazi Germany’s use of that symbol?
Doesn’t the symbolism associated with the Swastika include ALL uses of it, and not just the original one?
Similarly, doesn’t the symbolism of the Stars-and-Bars include its use by White Supremacists as well as Confederate States attempting to secede from the Union?
I think that if a symbol becomes sufficiently offensive to a significant number of citizens, a time can come when continuing to publically display that symbol becomes counterproductive.
What place in American history does the swastika have? Where in the US was the swastika a symbol of government ?
The “Swastika” was in use IN AMERICA long before Europeans arrived here. Native Americans – Navajos and others – used both clockwise and counter-clockwise Swastikas, and continue to do so. As their cultures are somewhat lacking in written historical accounting, the precise meaning or meanings of the Swastika symbol to Native Americans is a matter of some debate.
I don’t know if the Swastika was ever a “symbol of government” for Native Americans, but I DO know that not all flags that are flown BY governments are symbols of those governments, so I’m not sure what point you are arguing in that direction.
@George Wells: Don’t roll an ankle avoiding the question; what possible purpose would there be to a swastika flying over any government building in the United States?
It would be objectionable because it would make no sense (well, none before the present regime). Likewise, the Muslim crescent, the hammer an sickle, the hammer, sickle and stars, the French tri-color, or any other random symbol you might want to pick would be objectionable… because they would have no context for being there.
The Confederate battle flag, however, is a part (whatever part you might recognize) of American history. The current flap is nothing but leftists trying to show how much they can control what society is allowed to do.
@Bill: I’m confused Bill. The 3 top Conservative pols in S..C have called for the removal of the flag. Potential Prez. contender Dem.Jim Webb is against it’s removal–what say you.
Should we all get behind Jim.’s candidacy.?
@rich wheeler: I guess, if the Comfederate battle flag is your Presidential issue, that’s what you should do. For me, there are REAL problems to consider.
What “purpose” there might be is irrelevant. If the civil servants whose duty it is to decide such matters take it upon themselves to erect a flag, they do so for whatever reasons they might have. Perhaps they might be Native Americans desiring to glorify their heritage, or maybe they are Nazi sympathizers – what difference would it make? If they erect a flag that angers the electorate, they do so at their own peril. That’s politics.
And so is the Swastika.
Native Americans are a part of American history.
The Boy Scouts of America are a part of American history.
Gay people (and their rainbow flag) are a part of American history.
None of their symbols are appropriate for display on government property.
The Confederate States “Stars-and-Bars” flag was the banner of those misguided states that fought unsuccessfully to secede from the Union and of the citizens of those states who fought to preserve slavery. Flying that flag today glorifies those destructive goals and sends the message that the outcome of the Civil War was wrong. And that doesn’t even BEGIN to address the fact that the Stars-and-Bars has been ADOPTED as a symbol of virulent racism by the likes of White Supremacist groups, making its continued display as objectionable as the display of the Nazi flag – another symbol which, after a long history of benign meaning, came to represent virulent racism.
It is odd that while the current objection to the display of the Confederate flag is broadly bipartisan, you continue to view the efforts to remove the flag as a left-wing thing. It isn’t. Yes, Retire05, I get that racist Southern Democrats put up those flags, and they were wrong to do so. How does that make trying to take them down NOW wrong?
@George Wells: I see. So you’re just screwing around, throwing junk out there. Got it.
Obama’s campaign logo should be banned; represents lies and racism. Hillary’s campaign logo should be banned; represents lies, corruption and racism (remember, to all the Obama supporters in ,08, she was racist). Anything with the rainbow on it should be banned; represents oppression of non-gays. The La Raza flag needs to be banned; racism. The KKK needs to be banned; racism. The New Black Panthers flag needs to be banned; racism, violence. MSNBC needs to be banned; support of racism.
This could go on forever.
“I see. So you’re just screwing around, throwing junk out there. Got it.”
You don’t “got it.”
I separated my OWN feelings about symbols and flags from this discussion long enough to construct a rational discussion of OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS, something that you seem incapable of doing.
I also demonstrated a rational connection between the significance of the Swastika and the significance of the Stars-and-Bars, and explained a reason why neither should be flown on government property.
I never mentioned “BANNING” anything.
That was YOUR rhetorical invention, YOUR choice to confuse the issue by grossly exaggerating current events. Your First Amendment right of free speech isn’t being threatened. Nothing is being BANNED.
You’re just angry that there is bipartisan support for removing from public glorification a racist symbol that you are evidently quite fond of.
And since you can’t make a coherent and convincing argument that the flag should remain where it is, you play “sour grapes” and suggest that anything that offends anyone should be banned.
Rather amusing, that, as you and I would likely be at the top of each other’s list.
But don’t be sad… ObamaCare got it’s second SCOTUS thumbs-up today, and the House Republicans can now go back to voting 60, 80, 100 times and more to overturn that legislation rather than working to put in place something BETTER. Why don’t you suggest to your GOP that they pursue the latter instead of chasing windmills. Better yet, why don’t you put your little thinking cap on and come up with a better alternative yourself. It’d be a better
wasteuse of your time than whiningtrying to make wine out of those sour grapes.