Commentary: The Confederate Flag

NASCAR announced recently that there was no hate crime regarding the noose found in Bubba Wallace’s car stall.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps detailed Thursday afternoon via teleconference findings from NASCAR’s internal investigation, which has concluded, into the noose found in the garage stall of No. 43 driver Bubba Wallace at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend.

A photo of the noose was released by the sanctioning body earlier Thursday, one day after an FBI investigation concluded no federal hate crime was committed against Wallace, who is Black, and the noose had been on the garage door at Talladega since October 2019.

I grew up in the deep South, Texas, during a time of much racial division – the 1960s.  As a Hispanic, I was well aware that there were racial problems in America. Aside from the racial slurs, my fellow Texans constantly reminded of “Remember The Alamo”.  I was brought up not to acknowledge it.  My parents advised me not to say anything about it and to just keep going forward.  That was good advice, I think.  I grew up with Confederate flags, and I never once thought they posed any harm to me.

During this very painful time of our current day, I want to bring up a few good examples of why we need to calm down about the Confederate flag, and many more issues like this.

  • In 1987, while a student at Texas A&M University, I received an autographed book written by then University President Frank Vandiver: “Their Tattered Flags”.  Vandiver presents a great description of the religious culture that existed in the Confederacy.  The character that I really like in the book is Stonewall Jackson.  Not only did he defeat Union forces who had twice the number of troops, but he was also a Presbyterian deacon – not to mention a professor of philosophy and artillery at the Virginia Military Institute.  I admire Stonewall Jackson because of his accomplishments and amazing military skill.  Vandiver points out that slaves were recruited to fight for the Confederacy.  That was an opportunity for a slave revolt, and there was none.

  • Jerry Thompson is a professor at Texas A&M International University and he published a book about the civil war battles fought along the New Mexico/Texas border, “Civil War In The Southwest”.  It is a compilation of newspaper interviews taken of soldiers who actually fought in the battles.  The conflicts took place along an area called Jornada del Muerto – Deadman’s Journey.  Kit Carson fought for the Union.  The most striking thing about the book are the Confederate soldiers own words about honor, bravery, and duty to country.  When I read these accounts, I thought to myself, “I want to be like these brave and honorable men”.  The setting for the movie, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is based on these series of battles.
  • “Royal Commentaries Of The Incas and General History Of Peru”, written by Garcilaso de la Vega, is a glorious book.  Vega was a mestizo whose father fought as an officer in the Spanish army during the conquest of Peru.  The Pizarro brothers conquered Peru, but the problem is that they also instituted slavery of the natives.  The King of Spain said that slavery is illegal and a sin; thus, he sent an army, with a priest serving as top general, to put down slavery.  The Pizarro brothers actually claimed that they were in concordance with the law and doing the “Will of God”.  Ultimately, the Pizarros were either murdered, executed, or shamed.  A glorious tale in this book is about General Francisco Carvajal.  He is truly one of the greatest generals that ever lived, up there with Caesar, Hannibal, and Alexander the Great.  Unfortunately, he was loyal to the Pizzaros and ultimately beheaded by the King of Spain.  By the way, the Incas freely submitted to their slavery because their king told them that the Spanish brought the True Faith.  That Inca king was officially executed by the Spanish, via strangulation, very quickly after his proclamation; and he went to his death without a word of complaint. He was actually tried in a court of law and charged with sedition.

We need to interpret historical events in context of their time in history.  We cannot allow great books like these escape from our consciousness.  Great events and people in history never appear as a nice pretty package; rather, quite often they come in oblique and obtuse bundles.  In a word, they can be described as “messy”.  You can learn amazing lessons from books, history, and symbols, when you place them in their historical context – even if you do not agree with their point of view.

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