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Think. Discuss. Act. African American Culture

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Review: Confederate Flag Debate

White, J.E. (2000, January). A Confederacy of Dunces. Time, p. 49.


(Download Confederacy of Dunces overview as a PDF)

The article, “A Confederacy of Dunces: Buckwheat wonders if the rebel flag’s fans are playing with a full deck,” addresses the confederate flag being waved over the statehouse in South Carolina. Is it “to commemorate the Civil War Centennial,” as is claimed, or is it a sign of resistance to civil rights?

Jack White begins with a diverse group of card players including Buckwheat, Charlie Chan, and the Frito Bandito at the Home for Retired Racial Stereotypes in Hollywood. They are interrupted by Kingfish. Using stereotypical slang, Mr. White wittingly explains that although it appears that there is a “secret outfit that goes around making us black folks look like fools by stirring up dumb racial controversies like the idiotic fuss in Washington last year over the word ‘niggardly’ it and any racial controversy is very ‘serious.’ “

White says this time the fuss is that “it’s white politicians in South Carolina who’re making fools of themselves by claiming that the Confederate battle flag doesn’t have anything to do with slavery and segregation.” He adds that “Everybody knows that until Martin Luther King, Jr. came along, the so-called Southern Way of Life that the flag symbolizes was based on keeping black folks separate and unequal. Pretending otherwise is ridiculous.”

Jack White slams Mr. (George W.) Bush, Mr. (John) McCain, and Mr. (Steve) Forbes for saying “loony things about the flag issue.” He explains that they “claim they want the Republican Party to appeal more to blacks and other minorities, but not one of them had the courage to say that the flag is the offensive symbol of white supremacy that ought to come down right away as did Mr. (Al) Gore and Mr. (Bill) Bradley.”

He makes a plug for The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, by Randall Robinson “which makes the case that white America is suffering from a massive case of denial about the impact of slavery and discrimination.” White cites the example of the fact that there is a “deliberate effort to white-wash all that ugly history.” He also reminds us that our national Capitol in Washington is built out of quarried stone blocks by slave laborers and “The Statue of Freedom the figure of a Native American woman warrior that stands on the dome, was cast in bronze by slave laborers in 1863 and hoisted up there.”

Mr. White calculates that “the due bill for slavery could be as much as $24 trillion.”

Questions for Reflections and Discussion

  1. Can the Confederate flag be waved and depict the honor of “Southern heritage” and mean nothing more?
  2. If the Confederate flag is believed by some to honor slavery and segregation, then should it be flown?
  3. Could one say that if the white politicians used the flag incident to their benefit, then they are all guilty of a racist act?
  4. Do you agree with Jack White that America owes reparations to African Americans? If so, how much, and how can we take practical steps today towards that end?


  1. We must be diligent in our quest towards racial sensitivity. And to ending racism.
  2. It is imperative that we admit to the part we play in tolerance for white supremacy and stop it.
  3. There should be a deliberate effort to remember our ugly history and to honor those who lost their lives, families, and dignity, only to bring comfort to white society.

Patricia Mitchell
© 2018 CYS

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