American public opinion on the Confederate flag remains about where it was 15 years ago, with most describing the flag as a symbol of Southern pride more than one of racism, according to a new CNN/ORC poll....As Zandar notes, this isn't a case of "Oh, the old people are still living in the past, but the young are so much more enlightened": overall, 57% of respondents think the flag is more a symbol of pride than of racism; among Millennials, that number is 58%.
The poll shows that 57% of Americans see the flag more as a symbol of Southern pride than as a symbol of racism, about the same as in 2000 when 59% said they viewed it as a symbol of pride. Opinions of the flag are sharply divided by race
Among African-Americans, 72% see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, just 25% of whites agree....
A second poll shows similar results:
[A] Suffolk University/USA Today poll conducted two weeks after the apparently racially motivated shooting ... found that 42 percent of Americans think the flag is racist and should be removed from state grounds, while 42 percent of Americans think the flag is not racist and represents Southern history.Well, it's hard to fight 150 years of propaganda accepted as fact:
(Those numbers break down less along regional lines and more along partisan lines, with 63 percent of Democrats calling the flag racist and 61 percent of Republicans saying it's not.)
As historian David Blight writes in his 2001 book Race and Reunion, in the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, former Confederates and their supporters waged a propaganda campaign to shape American historical memory. The result was a popular understanding of the war and its aftermath that glamorized the valor of Confederate soldiers, downplayed slavery as a cause of the war and cornerstone of the Confederacy, recast Reconstruction as a period of tyranny and “black domination,” and justified the violent disenfranchisement and dispossession of black Americans for decades to come.Or not unraveling.
Even after the narrative of a benign and honorable Confederacy fell out of favor with historians, it continued to dominate American popular culture in film and literature, from The Birth of a Nation to The Dukes of Hazzard. The damage wrought by this interpretation of history is immeasurable. It is only now unraveling.
Did you read Margaret Biser's recent Vox article about the questions she heard regarding slavery while working at a plantation that's now a historic site? If you did, it won't surprise you that a lot of white Americans are oblivious to the realities of this part of our history. A small sample from that article:
I showed the young mother some of the slaves' names and pointed out which people were related to each other. The mom stiffened up, raised her chin, and asked pinchedly, "Did the slaves here appreciate the care they got from their mistress?"But white obliviousness extends beyond slavery and the Confederacy. When allegations of police brutality are in the news, we often hear from black men and teenage boys who report routine police stops for no reason. It seems impossible for whites to be unaware that virtually every black male is stopped by the police repeatedly -- an experience that we white males simply don't share.
"These were house slaves, so they must have had a pretty all right life, right?" is a phrase I heard again and again. Folks would ask me if members of the enslaved household staff felt "fortunate" that they "got to" sleep in the house or "got to" serve a politically powerful owner....
The most extreme example of this occurred in my very last week of work. A gentlemen came in to view our replica slave quarter and, upon learning how crowded it was, said, "Well, I've seen taverns where five or six guys had to share a bed!"
White people ... are more confident than ever that local police treat black and white people equally, according to the Washington Post.
A poll conducted by NBC News and Marist College ... found that 52 percent of white people have a "great deal" of confidence that local police treat black people and white people equally. That's a higher percentage than many previous polls that asked the same or a very similar question, dating all the way back to 1995.
Or maybe this isn't obliviousness. Whites certainly have a tendency to feel that being asked to feel empathy is a tremendous hardship. Some, I imagine, think it's worse than slavery.