It seemed like just another day at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, for the vice chancellor of student affairs, Paula Knudson, until the phone calls, student visitors, and official “hate and bias” reports began to pour in.
A truck—a semi-tractor trailer truck to be exact—had somehow breached the invisible line that marked the school’s safe space and, without any apparent consideration for the students’ feelings, was right there on the construction site at the student centre with a Confederate flag grill cover.
Shock waves spread as iPhones, Androids, and other electronic devises lit-up across campus warning fellow students of the hateful display.
After receiving the message loud and clear, “this is hurtful,” the Vice Chancellor called for action. Executive Director of Facilities Douglas Pearson was quickly dispatched to the construction site to get to the bottom of this blatant disregard for the emotional well-being of the school’s young scholars. Pearson spoke with the site supervisor, who in turn spoke to the truck driver, who in turn moved his truck “without complaint.”
Among those who were affected by the offending truck was physics senior Matthew Dreis, who saw the flag on his way to class that morning.
“That’s very inappropriate,” Dreis said. “I think we have problems with institutionalized racism at our school and when we see it at the construction site of the physical building where students are getting their education it solidifies that there’s a problem with our campus atmosphere.”
It apparently never occurred to the future physicist that the truck had nothing to do with the school or, perhaps, that the trucker didn’t view the flag in such terms. In fact, no thought seems to have been made of the trucker by anyone at the university—how he was affected by their hostility, in-hospitality, and general lack of good manners.
In an email sent to students later that afternoon, the Vice Chancellor apologized for “the fear and angst caused by (the flag’s) presence.” She further assured the shaken students that the flag-bespangled truck had been removed from campus.
* * *
A “furious storm of confusion” rained down on the Indiana University campus at Bloomington when a TWEET went out on what was otherwise an unremarkable spring evening. A man in white robes had been spotted—it appeared that a Klansman was on campus … and he was carrying a whip!
“iu students be careful,” reported one tweet, “there’s someone walking around in kkk gear with a whip.”
It took less than one minute for a concerned student to re-tweet the disturbing news to the entire campus:
“there’s a man walking around campus in a KKK hood carrying a whip and there’s NOTHING you can do to make the students feel safe?”
Ethan Gill, being mindful of his responsibility as a resident assistant, sent out a Facebook post to the young scholars for whom he was responsible. He was cautious, citing the First Amendment rights of Klansmen, but urged vigilance:
“…Please PLEASE PLEASE”—pleaded young Mr. Gill—“be careful out there tonight, always be with someone and if you have no dire reason to be out of the building, I would recommend staying indoors if you’re alone. If you feel unsafe, please contact me…”
The feeling of safety was dwindling quickly, and panic had begun to take hold …
In an unrelated event on the campus of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, there was another Klan sighting reported. Unlike the sighting at Indiana University the hooded miscreant — or miscreants — were not simply roaming the grounds, they were inside—apparently having a “Klan Rally” in one of the university’s laboratories.
The student who happened upon the rally quickly took some video and sent it out via Twitter, taking special aim at University President Mary Ellen Mazey:
“There’s been an ACTIVE KKK group in Bowling Green, OH since 1922. [President Mazy] soo, how does this promote diversity &a (sic) inclusion??”
President Mazey, sensing the urgency of the matter, quickly dispatched a university contingency to the scene. After a thorough investigation, the case was cracked.
Exercising a restraint that I would have found most difficult, if not impossible; the president issued a response via her own tweet:
“Thanks for sharing … We looked into this. We discovered it’s a cover on a piece of lab equipment…”
Alas, no Klansmen on campus … just some lab equipment, some protective covering, and a little student hysteria.
What about the Klansman at Indiana University? (Glad you asked!)
Well, there was no Klansman there either.
Sadly, the young scholars could not differentiate between a Klansman with a whip (which DID NOT exist) and a Dominican Monk in a traditional white robe who was carrying a Rosary (which DID exist). Bless their little hearts!
* * *
A student at Framingham State University, located 20 miles outside of Boston, was “traumatized” when a Confederate flag sticker was seen on another student’s laptop computer.
This “bias incident” was reported to the school’s “Bias Protocol and Response Team” who quickly responded to the complaint. Framingham State’s “chief diversity and inclusion officer,” Sean Huddleston, responded with a mass email to the student population, explaining the details of the incident and strongly suggested that those impacted by the incident … seek counselling.
The Bias Protocol and Response Team, said Huddleston, “will meet to determine any measures that may be needed to respond to this incident. Our primary goal continues to be to expeditiously address and resolve incidents that impede progress towards a welcoming and inclusive campus community.”
The irony of his position was apparently lost on Huddleston and other campus diversity enforcers. Some students, it is fair to say, are to be more “welcomed” and worthy of “inclusion” than others.
The traumatization of the “offending” student resulting from this hysteria is unlikely to be addressed. Rather, we expect that this student received mandatory diversity & sensitivity training followed by a public apology and confession of his crimes before being pressured to matriculate elsewhere…
Unwelcomed, unwanted, a persona non grata, this young student is but one in a long list of causalities of the hatred and intolerance characteristic of Confederaphobia, an epidemic that is sweeping America with new and increasingly outrageous manifestations.
Origins of the Project
I came up with the idea of “confederaphobia” in the summer of 2015. It was in the wake of the horrific and unprovoked murder of the parishioners of Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina.
I had been asked by Commander of the SC Division of the SCV, to be the media contact for the Midland’s area—a job which, at the time, did not seem like much.
This was Sunday evening.
I had attended an “anti-flag” rally on Saturday night which seemed no different than others I had observed over the years. Aged hippies, hipsters from the college, and a smattering of political activist, onlookers, and concerned citizens.
Photos of the gunman, Dylan Roof, with Confederate flags had surfaced, but I could not see, nor could I understand, what one thing had to do with another, or why people were equivocating the flags in the images of Roof and the flag at the Confederate Soldiers’ monument, even knowing, as I did, the determination of some folks to see that the flag come down. (NAACP tourism boycott, etc., as the back story)
I left work around lunch on Monday and did interviews until 7:00 or so, during which time the then governor of South Carolina, “Nikki” Haley, had a press conference and cast her lot with the lunatic fringe against the soldiers’ flag. (Lunatics which are now, sadly, no longer fringe.)
It was surreal, but it was not until the next day that things began to really heat up. There are far too many details to relate given my time restraints, however, let me say that the pressure was building and by the third day it felt as though a switch had flipped. It was no longer the same thing. You could feel the anger and for the first time in my life I did not feel safe in downtown Columbia—my native home!
What happened next changed the nature of the standoff and the characteristics of mass hysteria began to sweep the country.
[This is where I mark the beginning of the mass hysteria I am calling “Confederaphobia.”]
After an 8,800% spike in sales of Confederate-themed merchandise on Amazon, they were banned. They were one of many retailers that joined in the purge. Others included Walmart, eBay, Sears, K-Mart, Etsy, Spencer’s, Target, Google shopping, NASCAR, Overstock.com, Apple, and many, many more.
Things then took a turn for the weird when Warner Brothers ended the production for the “General Lee,” a toy replica of the 1969 Dodge Charger from the ‘70s television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” They would later cease licensing any “Dukes” product which featured the flag. Television stations soon began cancelling re-runs of the Dukes. Those good ol’ boys, who never meant no harm—never bested by Boss Hogg or Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane—were done!
Then came government bans. Of special interest was the National Park Service which banned the sale of “stand-alone” Confederate-themed merchandise at Civil War battlefields and other relevant locations. (How can you have a battle field with only one army allowed to exist?)
From flags, to monument, to markers, to building and school names, to parks, bans began to take place at the state, local, and national level, indeed, from sea to shining sea!
To this day the National Park Service continues this interdiction and there is no sign of the purge slowing or stopping.
As you know, the madness continued…
The presidential race of 2016 threw gasoline on what, looking back, now seems rather trivial.
The portrayal of Trump supporters as racist, ignorant, uneducated Bubbas was easily grafted upon the ongoing and increasingly hostile narrative regarding the South. It is important to understand that to “those people” Southerners, Klansmen, and Trump supporters (AKA “deplorables”) are all the same thing.
As the reality of the outcome of presidential race began to sink in, things not only began to be more hysterical, but also more unpredictable and violent.
For those paying attention, it should have come as no surprise when Antifa and other violent radicals made their way to New Orleans and from thence to Charlottesville, Memphis, and other destinations across Dixie--outrages that continues without abatement to this very day!
What is Confederaphobia?
I describe CONFEDERAPHOBIA as an irrational and pathological hatred and fear of all things Confederate—flags, monuments, graves, portraits, trinkets, stickers, etc.--anything that could be associated, even tenuously, with the late Confederate States of America, including the region from which it sprang and those people and groups of people who are native or sympathetic to this region.
Regardless of the shape it assumes—I break it out into into four “types” in the book—Confederaphobia has the characteristic of dehumanizing self-identified Southerners and seeks to deny them their humanity, their dignity, and their right to exist.
As a result, far too many Southerners hide in the shadows and talk in whispers, for fear of being outed. It’s not that they believe that being Southern is wrong, but rather because of the fear of the repercussions that they are likely to encounter if they dare lift their head from the masses and call this what it is; fear of being labelled as a “racist” or “white supremacist,” for example, or stigmatized in other ways that call their character and reputation into question. Indeed, their livelihood!
Because of their naturally good disposition and desire to be left alone, self-identified Southerners are reluctant to make trouble, but the circumstances in which they find themselves, or more to the point, we find ourselves, is making this more and more difficult. Because of our strong attachment to family—which, for us is intergenerational—attacks on Confederate symbols are personal—attacks on family members and our own good name. The soldiers that have been memorialized in just about every city, town, hamlet, or cross-roads in the South, are family. (We are the SONS of Confederate Veterans, a name that apply demonstrates this overarching familial relationship.)
Even Southerners who are not fully conscious of these facts, or cannot fully articulate them, instinctively know that what is being done is wrong and they resent it.
The Character of the Confederaphobe
The Confederaphobe is intolerant, hateful, self-righteous, and smug. He hates all those he deems hateful and does not tolerate those who he accuses of intolerance—with the exception, of course, of himself. The jaundiced eye through which he views the world in general, but the South in particular, is not only shallow and uncharitable, but infected by ideological prejudice which he accepts absolutely and without qualification.
His world view is just as rigid and inflexible—indeed, dogmatic—as any religion which he is in the habit of condemning. He cannot and will not tolerate any deviation from his creed. Heresies, and the heretics who hold them, are sought out and made objects of derision; symbol and relics that do not conform to his world view are marked for destruction. He is a zealot in the very worst sense of the word.
He secretly revels in his moral and intellectual superiority and views himself as an enlightened and progressive being—thanking his would-be god (were he not an atheist) that he is not like the sinners he persecutes.
Hating those he claims hate, intolerant of those he claims to be intolerant, and imposing his world view through all available means at his disposal, he is the express image and likeness of the people he says he opposes. It is no wonder, therefore, that he comes unglued when he encounters anything which brings these suppressed characteristics to the surface. Removing “trigger” objects keeps his inner demons at bay.
This, however, is just a short-term fix.
If it were possible to eliminate all things Confederate from his view, he would simply turn his attention elsewhere. There is always another impediment to “progress”—towards what he wants to progress, he cannot say—something else that needs to be rooted out and destroyed in the name of the “ism” or “ology” du jour.
Confederaphobia vs. Other Phobia
THE CONFEDERAPHOBE, unlike other people who suffer from phobias, does not view his thoughts, actions, and/or behaviour as being abnormal.
People with arachnophobia, for example, certainly hate and fear spiders, but they do not blame the spider for their malady. They know the phobia is the problem; that they, and not spiders or people who like (or at least tolerate) spiders, are “out of whack.” It is for this reason they often seek treatment and not the genocide of spiders.
Imagine if they did blame spiders, advocated for the extermination of spiders, and were able to lobby public and private institutions or agitate in other ways to forward some kind of anti-spider agenda.
The very thought is silly… and absurd!
Unlike people people suffering from Confederaphobia, those suffering from this mental illness do not see their reaction to spiders as virtuous, but rather for what it is, namely, an irrational fear that can and should be overcome so that a normal, happy, and productive life can be pursued.
If successful, the arachnophobe can learn to manage his fears and find a way to live in a world where spiders exist. This will probably not include the adoption of a pet spider, or spending time watching spider documentaries on the National Geographic Channel, but he can certainly work towards finding a way to function and get along with the world as it is—spiders and all!
Confederaphobes could, if they choose to, learn to live in a world with self-identified Southerners and the traditional symbols, imagery, songs, etc., that they love. They could even learn to be friends with them. This cannot happen, however, if he fails to see that the problem is in his perception and not the persons or objects of offense that torment him.
Symbols vs. Signs
SYMBOLS ARE UNIQUE. They point beyond themselves to something else. Of what that “something else” consists is a matter of interpretation.
A symbol’s meaning cannot be fixed by definition; it must be interpreted.
If it could be objectively defined, it would cease to be a symbol and become a sign.
A red octagon with the words “STOP” at an intersection is not open to interpretation, neither is it a matter of opinion. It is also not a product of one’s individual or collective experience. It means STOP. You may not want to stop. You may not like stopping. You may even choose not to stop, but you know what the sign means—not just you, but all drivers. It’s a sign.
The Confederate Battle Flag, Confederate monuments, and/or other Southern cultural expressions all can certainly be interpreted as symbols of hate … but so what? Such is the nature of symbols.
The question is not whether the same symbol can mean different things to different people—experience clearly shows that it both can and does—but whether one group should be able to dictate and fix the meaning of a symbol.
The problem, you see, is not the symbol—the “thing” itself—the problem is in the mind of the thinker. The object hasn’t the ability to offend, it merely exists. What one brings to the symbol determines how one interprets it; how it affects them. One has to be taught to interpret.
We bring the meaning to the symbol, alone it is nothing but an inanimate object.
One would not normally go to a rabbi, imam, or atheist to understand Christianity or Christian symbols. They certainly have opinions and beliefs, indeed, unique perspectives, about the Christian faith, but they are looking at it from the outside.
For them Christianity is not a living reality, but a topic of study. (This is an essential difference!)
Likewise, one might not get the best interpretation of the institution of marriage by visiting a women’s shelter. You will certainly lean about a certain kind of marriage and the awful effects it can have in people’s lives, but these are exceptional cases. Certainly not marriage as is it is for most people, or marriage as it is intended to be.
There are bad Christians. There are bad marriages. There are bad people, including Southern ones.
This reality is not universal reality, these are particular circumstances.
Southern symbols mean to the Southerner exactly what they say that they do.
This does not mean that there cannot be alternative points of view, but rather that these explanations do not, cannot speak for those people for whom Southern identity is a living reality.
Those outside the fold are free to think and believe whatever they like but let us not pretend that their interpretation can be imposed upon the culture from which these symbols spring and the people they represent. Their views may be interesting, and in some cases informative, but they are not authoritative.
They are our symbols and let us not forget that.
Born This Way
IT IS NATURAL, normal, and healthy to embrace who and what you are. This is true for all people, including Southerners. Unless taught otherwise, the Southerner has no reason to think his genteel and easy-going ways are offensive; that he and his forebearers are “racist,” or that his cultural heritage is an affront to common decency.
It would certainly never occur to him that he should purposefully abandon his own cultural peculiarities for those of another.
Many people seem to believe that one can just “move on” from being Southern; that if these rednecks were just “properly” educated and taught the error of their ways, they could become real Americans.
To be Southern is not a choice, although the rejection of one’s natural cultural and biological condition is.
The rejection of one’s Southern identity—whether by suppression or repression—often occurs after long-term exposure to Confederaphobic ideas and ideological constructs brought in from the outside.
Although much of this occurs through various forms of media—to include television, news, and entertainment—the real psychological damage is done in the classroom.
Confederaphobia is carefully inserted through mandatory attendance of public or government-licenced private K-12 schools before its full fury is thrust upon students in the so-called institutions of higher learning. Many young Southern boys and girls can make it through the former mostly unscathed, but very few make it through the latter intact.
Many a Southerner has become a Confederaphobe and actively persecutes those who openly express what he inwardly represses. This kind of reconstructed Southerner will typically chronicle his Southern bone fides before apologising for slavery, calling his ancestors traitors, and throwing his kith and kin under the proverbial bus. He “knows,” and will tell anyone who will listen, that the South is evil, the Confederacy was racist, and that he has now seen the light even though he never owned a slave, picked up a gun to fight an invading army, or knew anyone who did!
Such a person does violence not only to his people, but to his own soul. They are the worst sort of Confederaphobes because they are what they claim to hate.
We cannot help who we are, nor should we.
If these Southern tendencies ever begin to re-surface, the self-loathing Southerner is forced to either “come out” or consciously live a lie.
You can suppress your Southern tendencies, but you can never be a Californian, Bostonian, New Yorker, or (God forbid!) an milquetoast American—you can only be a Southerner in denial; a Southerner fighting against his nature; a social experiment; a victim of Stockholm syndrome … you can try to cover it up, tamp it down, burn it, bury it, have it exorcised, or, if all else fails, give yourself over with reckless abandonment to the American educational establishment, but sooner or later it will resurface. Not because it is Southern, but because it is true.
We are not the Problem
Being a self-identified Southerner, ladies and gentlemen, is not the problem. Being who and what you are is not the problem. The Confederate Battle Flag is not the problem. Southern people, places, or things currently being targeted and demonized are not the problem.
You, dear Southern man or woman, are not the problem.
The problem is one thing and one thing only: CONFEDERAPHOBIA!
Confederaphobes create divisiveness and discontent.
Confederaphobes persecute and harass.
Confederaphobes are the ones imposing their views.
Confederaphobes are the ones who hate.
Confederaphobes are the ones who fear that which they do not understand.
Extract Confederaphobia from the social equation and Confederate displays cease to be “controversial” or “divisive” and people can go on with their lives!
Unlike the Confederaphobe, self-identified Southerners have no interest in cultural genocide.
We are content to let the Confederaphobes live their lives as they see fit.
We just don’t want to be a part of it.
* * *
Why does it matter, some folks may ask? Why all the fuss over the dead?
Isn’t it time to pull down the flags, demolish the monuments, and plough up the markers? Isn’t it time to get with the program? Isn’t it time to go along to get along?
O that it were only that simple!
That fact is that our Southern identity, our family and communal ties, and the symbols of the South are all a part of the same interconnected reality in which we live.
Not long ago, a collegue of mine, knowing of my interest in the South, asked me if I was a re-enactor. I told her that I was not. She then asked me if I had period clothing. I told her that I did not. I proceeded to inquire why she asked. She said a friend of hers was having a family reunion and that they were looking for in re-enactor to read some family "Civil War" letters during the event. I thought it was a neat idea, but she went on to explain that they had tried to read the letters themselves and were unable to do so because of the strong emotions and tears. No one was able to get through them. They needed someone with a little distance to read them.
It is stories like this that help us understand why it is we cling to our history and our heritage. These are not textbooks stories, these are family stories. To strike at the symbols of the South is to strike at those things which are still held sacred and evoke the most tender responses. These are not symbols of ideas, these are reminders of people. Family members. People who we love despite the fact that we have never met.
These symbols are not a matter of ideology or politics, they are not a matter of left or right, they are personal.
They remind us that we are a people, not solitary creatures to whom family, faith, and community are incidental or accidental—they are fundamental to who and what we are!
They remind us that we did not spring forth ex nihilo--out of nothing—but are participants in a larger, unfolding human drama that began before we arrived and, God willing, will continue to unfold in its own unique way long after we are gone.
They remind us that while we are not perfect, we can and must press on—that our obligations extend beyond the present; that we have a duty to preserve and protect the traditions entrusted to our care and the responsibility to see that the true history of the South transmitted to future generations.
They remind us that we are descended from men and women who did not shrink from hardship, nor shirk responsibility when all seemed to be lost—that material ruin and political subjugation did not rob them of their humanity, but made them better appreciate the things that really matter—kith and kin, blood and soil, hearth stones, head stones, and the faith of their fathers.
They teach us that we can and must endure and overcome our own challenges, whatever they may be, with our dignity and honour intact just as they did.
They teach us to be better people. They give us an example to follow.
The sentinels, equestrians, and flags—in many cases at great cost and at great personal sacrifice—were erected to watch over us and help us remember who we are, where we came from, and what we can and should be—both as individuals and as a people.
Most of all—at least today—they remind us that we are a unique and recognizable people that have the right to exist; a right to be who and what we are without molestation, apology, or shame.
We are, of course, more than happy to live and let live and want nothing more than to live in peace with our neighbours and those who may not care for our peculiarities, but we are under no obligation to participate in our own destruction, or sit quietly while the memory of our kith and kin are slandered and insulted.
Of course, we are perfectly free to do nothing as well—hide in the shadows; stay in the closet; sell our birth right; to go gently into that dark, dark night …
That is certainly the path of least resistance, but it is also the path of death, decay, and destruction. Not only for us, but for all people everywhere who long to be free.
Such a thing cannot be if decent people are beaten into submission, forced to live as colonial subjects, or denied their legitimate and lawful right to live openly as they are so long as they are willing to permit others to do the same.
In this regard, we are no different than other normal and healthy people. We just happen to do it with a Southern accent.
I’d like to close my comments this evening by sharing the last chapter of my book. Confederaphobia. (Lucky for you, I write short chapters!)
* * *
If you are a victim of Confederaphobia, you are not alone. For most people, it takes time to truly come to understand who you are and where you come from.
It’s okay to be confused, or to be uncertain about whether (or how) you should come out and live openly and proudly as Southerner; to be who and what you are; to stand tall without apology or shame for your legitimate and praiseworthy history, heritage, and culture.
Education will be a vital part of your recovery as you move from victim to victor.
There are many lies your teachers told you, many falsehoods that need to be addressed. As you become more versed in the true history of the South, your confidence will increase and your fear will decrease.
There are many Southern-friendly resources and organisations out there that can help you along.
There is an amazing journey waiting for you should you choose to begin the process of reclaiming your identity and, thereby, reclaiming your life!
When you are ready to step from the shadows of self-loathing and shame, and embrace your Southern identity, we’ll be waiting to receive you with open arms to join us in our struggle as we take our stand against those who insult us because they are insulted, hate us because they accuse us of hate, and deny us our God-given right to exist openly and without fear as a distinct people.
Be brave; be strong; and be true, dear Southerner …
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
* * *
Thank you for inviting me to share this evening with you. Your kindness, generosity, and hospitality have been truly overwhelming, and I am humbled to be in your midst…
May God bless you all and may He—and this is my deepest hope and most fervent prayer—save our South!
This speech was presented by Paul C. Graham at the Lee-Jackson Banquet of Finley’s Brigade Camp 1614 in Tallahassee, Florida on January 19, 2019. Graham's book Confederaphobia is available from Shotwell Publishing.
Paul C Graham holds a Bachelor and Masters Degree in Philosophy from the University of South Carolina. He is past president of the SC Masonic Research Society and the current editor of The Palmetto Partisan, the official journal of the SC Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Graham is a member of several organizations including The Society of Independent Southern Historians and The William Gilmore Simms Society. He is co-founder and managing editor of Shotwell Publishing,