This exhibit has brought a lot of controversy to the AfroProvocations exhibit sparking discussions on the meaning of the Confederate Flag in current-day society.
Sims said he thinks his piece is necessary. He explained how the flag represented those who decided to secede from the Union and how that action was illegal.
He questioned what it meant for people to continue to raise the flag.
“Do they wish the confederates would have won the war?” Sims questioned.
The flag, according to Sims, is visual terrorism. “(It’s) a symbol for white supremacy and white power and white history,” Sims said. “They want us to forget about slavery but they don’t want to forget about the Confederate Flag.”
While some people who oppose the exhibit for its offense toward the soldiers who died in the Confederacy, others see the flag as a sign of hatred and slavery and others have no clue of the flag’s history.
Professor Anthony Dixon, Ph.D. said he hears a lot of whites that wave their confederate flags claim it embodies “heritage and not hate,” which Dixon said is a farce. “The heritage they claim is enthralled in hate.”
Dixon explained the South had legitimate reasons to go to war despite their promotion of enforced labor. The North, which was moving into the Industrial Revolution, was trying to force this way of life on the South, who was mainly an agricultural region.
“The slavery component out-weighed the agricultural versus industrial revolution factor,” Dixon said.
Because of the slavery factor, Dixon explained whites that say they are embracing the flag are embracing the heritage of Southern aristocracy. Aristocrats in the South were labeled planters. Planters had more than 20 slaves on their plantation, which Dixon said was rare in the South. The average Southerner owned one or two slaves, if at all.
“Without slavery…without planters you have no real difference between common whites (in the north).”
Dixon said whites that support the flag never admit to the true heritage of slavery.
“I’ve never heard someone say they embrace the Confederate heritage and at the same time admit anything negative about slavery and forced labor,” Dixon said.
But others oppose the linkage of the flag to evil.
“The flag has no moral stature because it has no will of its own,” said public affairs officer for the Florida Chapter of the Sons of the Confederacy Robert Hurst. Hurst said evil people can use the flag for evil purposes. But “there are far more good people who revere this flag than evil people,” Hurst said.
Hurst explained the flag most people are familiar with is actually the Confederate Battle Flag. The initial Confederate Flag, nicknamed “the stars and bars,” was changed because of the difficulty to differentiate the Confederate Flag from that of the Union, “the stars and strips,” in the battlefield.
Hurst explained the “X” was based on St. Andrews, the patron saint of Scotland’s refusal to be crucified on a Roman cross. Southerners were mainly from the farmlands of Scotland and Ireland. The Confederate Flag resembles the American flag except the blue field has 11 stars in a circular formation. The 11 stars represented the states that seceded from the Union including Missouri and Kentucky, Hurst said.
“To most of us (the flag) represents the South and the desire for independence,” Hurst said. He said men fought and died under the flag, which is why Southerners revere it and not slavery.
“(Southerners) admire people willing to take a stand to fight for a cause they believed in,” he said. “The Emancipation Proclamation was a boogeyman attempted by Lincoln because it didn’t free anyone.”
Hurst said most people are ignorant of true history, which prompts them to defile the flag because today it is politically correct to do so.
Hurst added that some people use the flag for evil, such as groups like skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan that used the flag as a symbol of rebellion because of the opposition to the symbol.
Hurst said the KKK didn’t start misusing the Confederate Battle Flag until 1953.
When it pertains to the piece by Sims, Hurst said, “I think it’s offensive and historically inaccurate.” In Hurst’s opinion the American flag should be hanging from the gallows instead. Although different people have different views the power of this symbol is evident.
Cynthia Hollis, director of art exhibition and programs, explained the controversy is stemming from this artwork because of the power symbolism has today. She said Sims went to deflate the power of this symbol “which is a really hard thing to do.” The piece, according to Hollis places a strong judgment on the symbol and “lays it to rest.”
Hollis said people get attached to symbols and what Sims is doing is “taking power away from the symbol and recreating it in other ways.”
“It brings justice to the contemporary meaning of the Confederate Flag to African Americans,” Sims said.
Students on campus said they are vaguely familiar with the flag. “The only time I see it is on a truck and rednecks,” said 20-year-old nursing student from Miami Tyrone Taylor.
Rony Jean, 20, accounting student from Miami, said he didn’t know what the Confederate Flag was. While 18-year-old criminal justice student Stenson Covington said if he had to choose between two white individuals, one with a Confederate flag and the other without, he “wouldn’t ride with the Confederate Flag.”