Is the Confederate Flag a Racist Symbol or a Display of Southern Pride? [POLL]
You expect to see them on the backs of pick-up trucks or flying at country music concerts.
And then the prejudging starts to go through your mind.
Does this flag represent someone who hates blacks, maybe other ethnicities, is a beer-swilling pot bellied “cafone” who speaks in a heavy Southern drawl and lives in a trailer park?
Or is it someone who just celebrates his or her Southern heritage, or anything Southern for that matter, no matter what their social standing?
Still though, you do wonder why the proliferation of the stars and bars up above the Mason-Dixon line.
And do you think ill of anyone who displays one?
Nearly 150 years after the Civil War ended, the Confederate battle flag - a complicated and incendiary symbol of rebellion, slavery, Southern pride and white supremacy - is seemingly becoming a more frequent sight north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Bryl Villanueva, 35, of Lafayette Hill, who recently saw a rebel flag flying in Conshohocken while on the way to a friend's house. "I remember taking a second look and going, 'Really?' It was shocking," said "Maybe they're from Alabama."
What's behind the popularity of the flag in the North?
"Me, I fly the stars and stripes," said Dereck Banks, a self-described history buff from Clifton Heights, Delaware County.
But Banks, 55, who is black, can't miss the Dixie flag plastered across the back window of his neighbor's pickup truck parked at the curb. It's also on the front license plate, with the word "Daddy."
"It offends a lot of people. White folks, too," Banks said. "Slavery is over. This is the new millennium. The South lost. The states are united."
Public schools have long been desegregated, too, but some Philadelphia-area residents are flying the same flag that the Ku Klux Klan and others adopted during the civil-rights movement to oppose desegregation.
Some defenders of the Confederate flag say it is not inherently racist and should be flown to honor Confederate soldiers.
Some groups, including the Virginia Flaggers - which has leased land along Interstate 95 south of Richmond and plans to erect a 12-by-15-foot Confederate flag on a 50-foot pole Saturday - have denounced the KKK and others that have used the flag for their own purposes.
Gene Hogan, chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans said the SCV, an organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers, encourages people to display the flag in remembrance of those who fought in the Civil War - or the Second American Revolution, as the group refers to the war on its website.
That's not how Drexel University sociologist Mary Ebeling sees it. The Falls Church, Va., native questioned whether it's possible to express regional pride, oppose the expansion of the federal government or just yearn for simpler times, while ignoring the flag's role as a hate symbol in America's history.
"The re-emergence of it is concerning," Ebeling said. "It's a brand, a symbol of oppression, violence, and, I would argue, white supremacy."
Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., agreed. People may have conflicting interpretations of what the flag means now, he said, but that doesn't change how it was used in the past, including during the civil-rights movement.
"The flags were raised in a patently racist show of standing by white supremacy and full-out resistance to desegregation," Potok said.
Jim Matusko, 66, an accountant who flies an American flag year-round at his home around the corner, said self-styled rebels need to grow up and find a new symbol.
"They got their asses whooped 148 years ago," he said. "Let it go, already, for God's sake."
"With the issue of slavery, waving a flag in someone's face is almost like trying to pick a fight. I don't think this country needs that kind of s---," he said. "I don't like the guy in the White House, either, but the South isn't going to rise again."
Contrary to what Charlie Daniels said some 34 years ago:
I’d go along with the rationale that it’s an expression of the pride some have in Southern culture even if they’re not from the South.
I lived in the South for over 2 years, and I can say without hesitation that I’d always been made to feel like family, despite my being like the Joe Pesci character in “My Cousin Vinnie!”
And yes, there is prejudice in the South, but it’s just as prevalent up here above the Mason Dixon
However, you can't overlook the fact that it had been coopted by others to use as a symbol of oppression.
Do you view the Confederate flag as racist or a symbol of Southern pride and culture?