Confederate flags in Georgia
30 July, 2015
Confederate flags in Georgia
I have seen a few confederate flags in Tbilisi. Some on used cars that have come from the United States, stickers here and there, even a few the flags for sale in places that sell flags. The symbolism of the flags is important in the United States and much discussed right now and I think has relevance for Georgia even though the two places are so far from each other and have such different histories.

I always wonder what are the symbols for Georgians that remind them of something Georgia has done wrong in its past?

There is a great deal of racism in the US as everywhere but it is somehow more wired into American society than many other places. There are relatively few people who openly make racist comments but there is still a great deal of institutional racism. Many studies have been done in which jobs are applied for with identical CVs, one with a name that sounds like a European American and one that sounds like an African American. The African American sounding names are called significantly less frequently, just as an example.
All of this is a legacy of slavery. The settlement of what is now the United States was not a well organized process. It started with many people coming to America via indentured servitude, meaning somebody would pay for their ship across the Atlantic if they would work for several years without pay. As big plantations grew and became more common, particularly in the south, the actual enslavement of African Americans began to be recognized by law. It was the most immoral aspect of the emergence of the United States and was the foundation of the economy of the southern states which did not industrialize when the north did. Slavery was ended by a bloody civil war but institutional racism remained.

Georgians are under no obligation to take the Confederate flag seriously as a symbol, it is not your history, it’s mine.

The civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s went a long way to fight for the rights of African American but many whi­tes were against equal rights and equal protection under the law. Those whites used the confederate flag to symbolize their dissatisfaction with equal rights for African Americans. Despite these equal rights, since 1980 America has become less equal and many African Americans remain in poverty, with relative imprisonment rates for example much
higher than for whites. Particularly with mobile phones and social media, there are more and more videos of unfair treatment by police causing frustration and sadness. Although the problems are not new they are more evident now.
On 17 June this year, a twenty one year old white supremacist named Dylann Roof walked into a famous African American church in South Carolina sat down for an hour in a prayer group, then pulled out a handgun and killed nine people. Guns are so easy to get in America that group murders like this happen more often than anywhere else, but this was an unusually cold blooded murder. While this was happening the confederate flag flew in front of the state capitol. After much discussion over several days the flag was permanently taken down.
The point of all this is that this flag is a powerful symbol in the United States. There are many parts of the world where the Soviet flag or the Nazi flag doesn’t mean much, or can be looked at ironically or from a distance. But in other places it is packed with meaning, anger, guilt, or sadness. That’s what the confederate flag is like for me, even when I see it in Tbilisi, so far from where it comes from.
As William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Our history lives with us and we pay for not recognizing it. The US has not fully recognized slavery as a fact within our own history and within our own soul as a nation. The inequality we see today between African Americans and other Americans illustrates that, if there is any doubt. As a society we need to take a painful look into it and understand it better and be honest about it. Talk about it more. Pay for it with some honesty and an apology that is real and means something. I don’t mean to say slavery is the only sad wrong thing lurking back in American history. There are plenty of others bad things we have done, some of them quite recent.
Georgians are under no obligation to take the Confederate flag seriously as a symbol, it is not your history, it’s mine. I just wanted you to know how I feel when I see it, even in Georgia. And when I do see it and can see that it clearly doesn’t have the meaning for Georgians that it has for me, I always wonder what are the symbols for Georgians that remind them of something Georgia has done wrong in its past? Maybe it is only big powerful countries that have done bad things in their past, they have certainly done more worse things. But does Georgia need to look deep inside at something it has done but tried to hide or doesn’t want to talk about? Is there some symbol for that? Something it should recognize and atone for in a way the Confederate flag requires that I must?

Other Stories
Eco-Friendly Habits: How to Clean Your Off-Roading Vehicle Responsibly
Irresponsible waste disposal practices continue to have drastic effects on the environment.
 5 Techniques for Finding Your Inner Creativity
Whether you’re a writer, artist, or even a marketing executive, you’ve probably had days where you felt completely uninspired.
A suitcase full of wine and a heart full of memories
I left Switzerland and arrived in Tbilisi on December 28.
Five Reasons to Visit Georgia in 2017
If you've been searching for a unique place to vacation in 2017, the beautiful country of Georgia holds some hidden treasures.
“All roads lead to Rome” – states one of the most famous medieval proverbs. It’s fascinating to think how much the narrow streets and glorious walls of this eternal city have seen.
It’s Not So Bad, Chaps- Just Look at the Yanks: Ogden on Comparable Politics
Electoral fever is dying down in Georgia as it ramps up in the United States.
 “Moral Inversion” - Pre-election period in Georgia
Georgian pre-election period can be classified as “Moral Inversion”, a notion first put forward by Michael Polanyi.
America’s Trump Card
America’s Trump Card
Like it or not, the name of the 45th American President will most likely be Donald Trump.
Clock is not counting down, it is adding up!
On Saturday for the ceremony in Charleston, instead of wedding gifts, the Managing Editor of Georgian Journal, Will Cathcart
A Protectionist Perspective: Ensuring A Georgian Future
Unlike many of my compatriots, I view my country as a sentient creature, a single organism. The mountains
Back in BSSR
Back in BSSR
"I remember that when I was a schoolgirl, they told us we have to be ready to give our lives for the motherland.
Thank you, father, for saving me from USSR!
On the 11th of October, the population of Belarus has elected Alexander Lukashenko to serve his fifth term
The EU Getting Squeezed in Georgia
Recent polls have shown that the EU is less and less popular in Georgia. The reason is that they
What is Georgia’s Military For?
There are two possible uses for Georgia’s military. The first would be to fight a war with an external threat or by its existence, to deter
Last weekend I went to a hackathon in San Francisco called Protohack. In the former Soviet Union, people tend to think of hacking
European Migrant Crisis: The good, the bad and the liar
“I call an animal, a species, an individual corrupt, when it loses its instincts, when it prefers what is injurious
Refugees in Georgia
Refugees in Georgia
The people of Syria see the Assad regime weakening, and considering who may take over and what they might
David and Goliath: A Realpolitik Rendition
A Conservative Contrarian View on Georgia’s Geopolitical Dilemma
The Bleeding of Rustavi 2 - Our New August Surprise
When the powerful have to make something happen that they want few people to notice, they issue the statement late in the afternoon
The Good Neighbor
The Good Neighbor
In 2012, Georgia was promised to witness what ex-Prime Minister Ivanishvili called “a new age.” It would be achieved by “restarting”
Independence, Institutions and Corruption
People talk about Georgia choosing between Russia and the West as if Georgia ended up at a soccer game and, well, since we’re here we may
Politics, aggression, and listening
A record number of people in Georgia dislike all political forces. The strange thing is that if you look at Georgia’s media, that is not at all the picture
Thirty pieces of Russian silver
“But why are we speaking so long about one enemy who now avows that he is one, whom I now do not fear because a wall is between
Georgia and Iran - The key now is speed
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the international community has not really known how to deal with Iran. And the fact of the revolution illustrates
Seven Deadly Sins of Georgian Business
For many years, all we’ve been hearing from our government(s) is how important small and medium enterprises are for the economy
Other Stories
GEL Exchange