Locals React To Latest Confederate Flag Controversy Created By Democratic Presidential Hopefuls

November 5, 2003 - Posted at 5:50 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR - An old debate is unfolding over the symbolism of the Confederate battle flag.

During Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Boston, candidate Howard Dean made reference to the flag as being made a symbol of racism in the South.  And, some Region 8 residents are taking issue with what they call a stereotype of the South.  But, they also acknowledge that for some people, the Confederate banner may indeed be seen as a symbol of racism.

"People who fly the Confederate flag I think are wrong, because I think the Confederate flag is a racist symbol," said Dean in heated remarks about the banner on Tuesday evening.

Jonesboro historian Danny Honnoll says the flag is not a symbol of racism, and feels that many misconceptions exist surrounding its meaning and history.  "It's a historical flag.  It's part of my heritage.  It's part of most people from Craighead County's heritage," said Honnoll.  He says that many people lose sight of the state's rights issue in the Civil War while getting lost in the slavery issue.  "There's a misnomer.  There were black slave owners in the South.  There were black Confederate soldiers.  So, the Confederate flag was about black heritage also," Honnoll said.

The ASU chapter of the NAACP issued the following statement today regarding the controversy; "The Confederate flag was a symbol of the old South and its history.  Today the south is not represented by that, however it encompasses rich heritage and gives glory to its diversity.  To many, the flag is full of pride and honor.  But, the question remains, how can you honor something which lacks the honor or exurberance on the lives and souls on which the South now embraces?"

Elsewhere at ASU, the Kappa Alpha fraternity, which is known for embracing its Southern heritage, also addressed the issue.  Member John Walker said the fraternity is often wrongly accused of being racists, but he begs to differ.  "We're really trying to work with this campus, mainly because we're looked on as being racist, but we're really not even close," said Walker.

And while the flags of the Confederacy represented a nation and government that allowed slavery, Honnoll had a parting thought.  "It's hard for be to beleive the Confederate flag purely symbolizes hate and racism."