How Many Flags Over Texas? – Amanda S. Green
Growing up in Texas isn’t like growing up back East or in the South or even like growing up on the West Coast. There’s a different mentality in a way to a Texan, especially if you happened to be born here. Part of it is because of the mythos of Texas. Part of it is, I believe, because we were our own country before becoming part of the United States. Part of it is because, before becoming rejoining the US after the Civil War, six flags had flown over our land. We’ve belonged but, in a very real way, we’ve been independent.
That’s why so much of the uproar over the removal of statues associated with the Confederacy hasn’t hit as much of a nerve here as it has in other areas. Sure, there have been protests. The largest, to my knowledge, took place in Dallas. Several thousand people gathered in multiple locations. While the issue of the statues was addressed, the real point of the rallies was one of equality for all peoples. That is something I think most of us can get behind.
The events of the last few weeks have made me think. Yes, that’s a dangerous thing. I can see why some people would prefer the statues to be moved, just as I can see why naming buildings and parks after those who served in the Confederacy would make them uncomfortable. However, I don’t believe we can simply take a broom and remove all reference to those men. We have to look beyond what they did over a four-year period. We also have to look at what connection, if any, those men had to the location or institution where they have been honored.
Last year, the Dallas Independent School District faced the issue of whether or not it should rename one of its schools. That particular school was in a predominantly African-American part of town. The students, as well as school administrators, teachers and parents, requested the change. They made recommendations for what they felt would be a more appropriate name for the campus. The school board debated the issue and looked into their various options. The decision finally focused on two considerations: first, the school had been named after someone who served on the Confederate side of the Civil War and, second, that person had little, very little direct ties to the community. If I remember correctly, the name change was approved.
What so many in the community noted, and appreciated, was the fact that the school board looked at the history of how the school was named. It wanted to know if the person being honored had done anything of note in the community or if the naming was, as happened, a push-back against equal rights.
I, in no way, approve of slavery or of treating people differently just because of the color of their skin, their beliefs, their sexual identity or where they come from (the list goes on, but you get the gist). But I also fear what will happen if we start sanitizing our history so much that we begin to repeat past mistakes. Yes, slavery is a stain on our history. Yes, we suffered – and still do – as we strive as a nation to accept that every person is created equal. But we have made great strides and we will continue to do so, as long as we don’t wind up pushing ourselves into a second civil war.
Where I see things going too far as decisions like Six Flags made when demands were made to remove the Confederate flag from its Arlington parks. Those six flags in the name of the park represented the six flags that have flown over Texas: Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States of American and the United States of America. It is important to note that the flag being flown for the CSA was the official flag and not the battle flag that is so tied to the white supremacist movements.
Initially, Six Flags said it would not remove the flag. I’ll admit that I approved this decision because it is an historical fact that Texas was the seventh state to join the Confederacy. We can’t change that and, as long as the park calls itself Six Flags Over Texas, it can’t remove one of those flags and still fly the others.
It didn’t take long, however, for the decision to be reversed. It would remove the flag. But it did more than that. For the moment at least, it removed all the flags except the US flag. Now, when you enter the park, you are greeted with six US flags flying proudly. This is, in some ways, a perfect example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Because the park didn’t want to risk offending some people, it removed flags that brought pride to others. Gone is the reminder of the Republic of Texas. Gone is the reminder that we were first settled by Spain and France. Gone is the Mexican flag, not only our closest foreign neighbor but an important trade partner.
How the park deals with this in the long run remains to be seen but it is a situation where there is no winning solution.
As for the statues and buildings, those should be decided on a case-by-case situation. One of those who has been very vocal on social media demanding the complete erasure of all memorials to the Confederacy just the other day raked someone over the coals for criticizing an activist for past behavior. Their basis for the defense was that people can change. The irony of that situation was lost on them but not on so many others. If you believe people can change, then you have to admit that those who supported the Confederacy could change after the war and realize their support of slavery was misplaced. If they did, then should we not leave their names on the buildings and parks? Or does that forgiveness only apply to those currently supporting your position?
Even if a statue needs to come down, that does not give anyone the right to take matters into their own hands. It especially doesn’t give them the right to go onto private property to destroy something they don’t agree with. Think about what would happen if the proverbial shoe was on the other foot. Or think about the precedent you are setting by taking part in such actions.
It only makes sense to look at the totality of circumstances surrounding why that statue was erected or why that park or building was given a certain name. Then, after the facts have been considered, it is appropriate to make the determination of whether a change should be made or not. If a city or other entity decides to remove a statue, should it be destroyed or should it be moved to a place where it can be placed into historical context? My vote is for the latter.
If we forget the past, we very well may repeat it and I, for one, don’t want to see that happen.