It’s been over 200 years since the Confederate flag represented an independent nation, but the south never got the message. And despite their insistence on flying it as as part of their “heritage,” southerners conveniently overlook the glaring fact that the Confederate states spent their entire short existence locked in a war with the United States, much like ISIS, making it an enemy state.
However, the wish to connect with heritage is understandable, and Americans are multi-cultural people with plenty of heritage to connect with. To help, I pulled together a non-exhaustive list of five flags that Americans can fly beside the Stars and Stripes, that reflect our heritage as a nation.
La Bandera de México
This is the most recent Mexican flag, adopted in 1968 to represent the United Mexican States.
Not only are Mexican-Americans more numerous than Confederate-Americans — about 35 million Americans identify as Mexican American — they also make up the majority of Hispanics and Latinos (over 60%). Also consider the sheer number of places that have Spanish names: California, Nevada, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Colorado, the Sierra Nevada, and Texas (we’ll return to Texas later), among others. You are soaked in Mexican heritage as an American.
Mexico was one of the first nations in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery; the Sentimientos de la Nación (Sentiments of a Nation) were first declared in 1813, almost 50 years before the Confederates betrayed the United States over the issue.
Which brings us to the question of Texas, a Confederate state. The Anglos in Texas wanted slavery, while the Spanish governors didn’t, and the government in Mexico City forbade Anglos from keeping slaves in Texas. The resulting tensions led to the Texas Revolution, the Alamo, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and others.
That’s right, Texas declared its independence at least in part because the whites wanted to keep slaves. Echoing the future Confederacy that Texas would be part of, slavery was written into the Texas Constitution, which forbid any slave owner from releasing their slaves.
Furthermore, Mexico never acknowledged Texas’ independence, so when the United States annexed Texas, we were annexing part of Mexico. Since the war with Mexico was a result of the annexation of Texas, and the annexation a result of Texas’ revolution to keep slavery legal, the United States indirectly went to war with Mexico over slavery.
So fly that Mexican flag proudly; there’s a heritage that intersects with North America that’s certainly worth celebrating.
What could be more flattering than the country that tried to follow suit with a revolution and Constitution of their own?
The American-French connection goes back further than the French Revolution. 11.8 million Americans consider themselves French Americans, with about 2 million who speak French at home. France had a presence in North America long before Great Britain, and so many places have French names it’d be impossible to list them all: Detroit, Chicago, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, parts of Texas — the entire Midwest, almost.
They sold us the entire Mississippi River, and a full third of our country.
If it weren’t for French help during the American Revolution, the United States would probably not be a free nation. And even though France was late to abolish slavery and what they did to Haiti deserves a post of its own, they still abolished the slave trade in 1835 — roughly 30 years before the end of the Civil War.
But speaking of the American Revolution . . .
The Union Jack
The Union Jack, also called the Royal Union Flag, is the Flag of the United Kingdom.
Anglo-Americans or British-Americans are among the largest group of Americans. And while only 9% of Americans report being English, we typically call Anglo-Americans “White” and the demographic is considered severely under-reported.
It’s true that we fought two wars with the United Kingdom; the American Revolution and what’s quite possibly the strangest war in American history, the War of 1812. Despite that, the United States has had a strong and lasting relationship with the United Kingdom since World War I, with 66% of Americans saying that the English had the greatest impact on this country.
In 1807, Great Britain cracked down on slavery, fining slave traders and patrolling waters around the African Coast to suppress the trade. Approximately 150,o00 slaves were freed in these anti-slavery operations. Earlier, in 1772, the Somerset Case ruling eliminated chattel slavery in England and Wales; it was the first domino on the road to eliminating slavery all together in 1833.
So they fought a war against us and lost, and we fought a war against them and lost to Canada (I told you the War of 1812 was weird), and they have a significant role in our heritage. Where are the Confederate-Americans flying this flag at?
五星红旗 (Five-Starred Red Flag)
Maybe not this flag technically, but it’s close enough (this is the problem of dealing with dead nations). This is the flag of the People’s Republic of China — don’t confuse that with the Republic of China.
I can’t and won’t defend China’s history of slavery; that’s no hill worth dying on. It is worth noting that China has had rulers that attempted to do something: in 1368, Emperor Hongwu declared private slavery illegal in the Ming Dynasty. It didn’t stick, but the Emperor gets an “A” for effort and forward thinking. Later, in 1730, Emperor Yongzheng gave it another shot. It wasn’t until 1906 that China banned slavery.
Far more noteworthy is this: there’s about 3.8 million Chinese-Americans in the United States, and they make up about 25% of the Asian-American population. Chinese-Americans built the backbone of this nation, among other feats of engineering that helped to make the United States the country it is today. That heritage is definitely one to be proud of.
The Confederate-Americans, meanwhile, have a history of destroying this country, not building it. So compare and decide who contributed more.
Oglala Lakota Flag
If you’ve never seen this flag before, it’s just more proof American schools are Eurocentric. This is the Oglala Flag, in use by the Oglala Lakota since 1961.
The Lakota were one of the largest tribes in the American West, and the Oglala are not only one of multitude of Lakota tribes, but they also lent their name to the Oglala Aquifer, one of the largest aquifers in the continental United States.
I only picked the Lakota flag because it was one of the first I ran across. Any flag from any of the Native Americans nations could work since this was technically their land, and their heritage is one of surviving against almost all odds.
So there you are; five flags that you can fly in the place of the Confederate flag to celebrate the diversity of American heritage — without celebrating the treason and backstabbing nature of the Confederacy.
Featured image via author composite