By ALTON H. MADDOX JR.
Although Elian Gonzalez is currently being held in Miami in violation of a federal administrative order, he can, nonetheless, take solace in knowing that Attorney General Janet Reno is taking legal steps to enforce the order of the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). From the eyes of a descendant of enslaved Africans in this country, I must confess that I am speechless. For every civil and human right that we have secured in this country, we have had to personally and aggressively take steps to secure them, without federal protection and with the attendant consequences of imprisonment, loss of employment and licenses, police brutality and assassinations, to name just a few state-sponsored punitive actions.
In the meantime, the NAACP is waging a relentless struggle to enjoin South Carolina from flying the Confederate flag atop its state capitol. We have not heard a peep from Reno, although Pres. Clinton did add his voice to the controversy by publicly opposing the flying of the flag atop the state house. Since Clinton is also the commander-in-chief, people of African ancestry should expect from him the same reaction if the flag of Nazi Germany were flying atop any state capitol. The federal military would invade the rebellious state and arrest the state's top officials for committing treason.
Flying the Confederate flag atop a public building is at least as obnoxious as flying the flag of Nazi Germany atop a public building in this country. Crimes against humanity were perpetrated under both flags. The doctrine of racial superiority was fostered under both flags. But although Adolf Hitler was an evil man, he was not a citizen of the United States. On the other hand, Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and Robert E. Lee, its top general, committed treason. Their citizenship was revoked after the Civil War and was not restored until a fellow Southerner, Jimmy Carter, reinstated it during his presidency.
It is still against federal law for the Confederate flag to be associated, in any manner, with any public building in this country. In order for the Confederate states to be readmitted to the Union, they had to individually ratify the Civil War Amendments: the 13th, 14th and 15th. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the 13th Amendment not only proscribes the institution of slavery, but also prohibits all "badges and incidents of slavery." In addition, the 14th Amendment prohibits racially discriminatory state actions, including any expression of racial supremacy.
Most, if not all of the presidential candidates have either waffled on the flag controversy or have shown their true colors. Sen. John McCain, for example, originally described the flag as "a symbol of racism and slavery." Later he said the flag is a "symbol of heritage." His first response comes closer to the truth. The flag is actually a badge of slavery, and therefore, its flying over a public building is in violation of the 13th and 14th Amendments. Congress has the constitutional authority to enforce these Civil War Amendments. Among other things, all federal funds for projects in South Carolina should be enjoined immediately. .
Assuming, for argument's sake, that the flag is a relic of the past, no moral nor lawful reason exists to celebrate it today. Millions of Africans have suffered, and are still suffering, from the myth of a superior race. This myth is reflected in the enforcement of laws and the benefits disseminated to various ethnic groups. The flag should be destroyed. In the alternative, it should only be displayed on premises which receive private funding.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush claims that he would never fly the Confederate flag atop the Texas capitol, but believes that it is proper for South Carolina to do so. The governor, however, fails to reveal that a plaque bearing the Confederate battle flag is implanted on his state's Supreme Court building, over objections from the NAACP. This explains Texas' pro-death penalty policy, which is having a disparate impact on persons of African ancestry. Texas not only leads the nation in executions, but also leads the nation in the number of innocent people who have been sentenced to death, although subsequent evidence has exonerated them of the murder charges.
The. Confederate States of America surrendered its national flag to the Union at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Militarily, this meant that the flag would never fly again over U.S. soil. Constitutionally, South Carolina - and other states similarly situated - lost the right to fly the flag when it ratified the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Confederacy had previously drafted and ratified a constitution which explicitly allowed for slavery and the movement of enslaved persons into a territory. Given the fact that a national flag represents a people, their land, their government and their ideas, the national flag of the Confederacy, which is now hoisted atop the state house of South Carolina, is unequivocally "a badge and incident of slavery."
From 1865 to 1962, South Carolina understood that the flag could only be displayed in a museum to symbolize a lost cause. Under the pretext of celebrating the centennial of the Civil War, the state hoisted this flag over its capitol in 1962. It was the civil rights movement, however, which moved this state once again to unveil the "stars and bars" of the Confederacy as another expression of defiance. In 1962, Pres. John F. Kennedy should have been as disturbed over this development as he was over the Cuban missile crisis. The rearing up of this badge of slavery is a threat to domestic tranquillity and undermines rights won by Africans fighting under "Old Glory" during the Civil War.
If the federal government had enforced the Civil War Amendments, a civil rights movement would have been unnecessary. The birthdate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be an ordinary day. Instead, an untold number of people lost their lives, their liberties and their careers fighting again for rights already won by their forebears. Against this backdrop, it is difficult to see this country elevate the rights of any non-citizen over the civil and human rights of its African citizens who are still uncompensated descendants of enslaved Africans.
While sports fans are enjoying the Super Bowl on Jan. 30,1 hope thatABC-TV shows Georgia'sstate flag, which was altered in 1956 to include the "stars and bars," in opposition to the 1954 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the pernicious "separate but equal" doctrine. I attended the wooden shacks masquerading as elementary and secondary schools in Georgia during the 1950s and 1960s, when this doctrine was still in effect. To stay warm, we had to make a daily pilgrimage to the forest to collect kindling. There was only one library in Coweta County for children of African ancestry. My mother and other teachers, who were only making a fraction of the pay given to Caucasian teachers, not only financed its construction, but paid for its maintenance. Of course, Andrew Carnegie had built a well-stocked library in the county for Caucasians only.
White supremacy is no laughing matter. It was life-threatening under the Confederate battle flag. The racial inequalities in this country emanate from a racial doctrine which continues to foster crimes against humanity. On Super Bowl Sunday, athletes of African ancestry will be running up and down the field in a plantation called the Georgia Dome to the financial delight of their teams' Caucasian owners, perched in their luxury boxes above a field where enslaved Africans once picked cotton in the shadows of plantation owners. As things change, they still remain the same.