More on the Dukes

The six or so of you who are my regular readers might recall that I wrote about the film version of The Dukes of Hazzard back in February. I read the reviews last week with no small measure of glee--in case you missed it, the reviews were bad to say the least. I was less pleased with the film's financial success--$30 million and the top spot for the weekend. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised--Jessica Simpson's ass has to be good for at least half that take.

But in my original piece, I was upset because the filmmakers decided to keep the only really offensive part of the show in the film--they kept the Confederate battle flag on the top of the car. I wasn't real happy that they kept the car's name the same either, btu I could live with that. But the flag? We're in a post 9/11 world--that would have been excuse enough to change the flag from the Confederate battle flag to the US flag--the only people to howl in anger would have been Dukes purists, and if they actually exist, then lord have mercy on us.

I wasn't going to revisit this issue, but Publius at Legal Fiction brought it up, and I wanted to reply a bit. He writes, in part:

I think when people look at the flag, they are seeing two fundamentally different images. Most blacks and non-Southern whites see slavery, segregation, and racism. The flag was, after all, the symbol of the Confederacy and its war to defend a barbaric practice that was the foundation of a medieval economic system.

But many Southerners see something different. If you believe nothing else I say, believe this – a lot of Southerners (a majority I would say) no longer think of race when they see the flag. Like the picture above, they are seeing something completely different.

For good or bad, Southerners have a collective consciousness – whether it’s through the shared dialect, shared history, shared inferiority complexes, or shared pride. To many, the flag is just a sign that you belong to this collective group and that you’re not ashamed of it. Others fly the flag not out of a sense of collectiveness or heritage, but because they want to be seen as badasses. It’s an expression of rootin’-tootin’-ness. But either way, race is not part of the picture. (Of course, some fly it because they’re racist – no one is denying that.)

The non-racist people are aware of the history of the flag, but they block it out. The South specializes in repression, and the flag is a perfect example. When people see it, they just block out the bad and only see the good. In other words, they see the pretty young woman and refuse to see the old hag. That’s why many of them get so mad when they’re called out for it. They have stopped seeing anything bad in it and don’t care for the cognitive dissonance, thank you.

I think Publius has a point, although I think he underestimates the subconscious or unconscious racism in white southern culture. Not all Southerners who refuse to object to the Confederate flag are racists, but they are self-centered.

Here's the thing--and a number of commenters on this point said this as well--whatever the Confederate battle flag stood for at one time (and it stood for treason, let's remember), post-reconstruction it stood for racism, much as the swastika stopped being a pagan symbol for the sun when Nazi Germany adopted it. And people who fly that flag, no matter their intentions, link themselves inextricably with groups like the KKK, the Knights of the White Camellia, lynchings, Jim Crow, and all of the rest of the South's sordid racial history.

It's not cute, it's not funny, and even if it's meant as satire at the expense of rural Southerners, it's not right. They should have changed that damn flag.

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