To The Editor,
Cross the Long Sault Bridge into Quebec and turn right onto Route des Outaouais. You’ll see the usual: houses, trees, manicured lawns, the river. Then, a little further down, at a property on Route des Outaouais, four towering poles, exhibiting with what I assume is immense pride, an assortment of flags. There is the flag of this country and the province. But then, another: the Confederate flag. All flags, readily, if not purposefully visible, to anyone who happens to be going down that road.
For those who know the history and symbolism of the Confederate flag, I need not explain why its public display is problematic. For those who don’t, I speak of the flag used by the South in the American Civil War: a war that began over the right — which the South defended with vigor — to enslave black people.
Fast forward to today, the flag carries different meanings. To some, it signals states’ rights and defiance: words which, as concepts, are not inherently evil. However, consider context, and the picture turns grim. The “right” in question? The ability to enslave people of color. The reason for defiance? Opposition to slavery’s abolishment.
It is because of this context that the flag connotes, to most, regardless of race, white supremacy, and racism. Indeed, it is because of this context that the Ku Klux Klan carried the flag to lynchings and white supremacists today fly it with pride.
To those who assert the flag is not a symbol of racism, I say look at the 2017 Charlottesville rally, where the aftermath of racist and anti-Semitic speech-spewing white supremacists flying Confederate and Nazi flags was one counter-protestor murdered and two state troopers dead.
I recognize that some who fly this flag do so not because they are racists, but because it represents, from their perspective, a history that has more to it than the defense of slavery. However, insofar as we are north of the 48th parallel, whatever possible historical justification, it’s most certainly not our history to tell.
Let me be clear: there’s nothing illegal about flying this flag. We are, after all, a free country. But legal does not mean right. Just as those who fly this flag have the right to do so, the rest of us have the obligation, as Canadians, to scorn and reaffirm our commitment to combating hate in all its manifestations.