This cartoon depicted was drawn by John Cole, an editorial cartoonist for The Times-Tribune. The cartoon is titled “Heritage”, which is one of the most telling features in this cartoon. It’s about the claim that is made by much of the conservative south, that sporting the ol’ stars and bars is not a symbol of racism, but of heritage. This entire contentious debate stemmed from South Carolina making the decision to end the flag’s reign over the state capitol building. While many were overjoyed of the momentous occasion, many were, in fact, outraged. The indignant population believed(as many still do) that the flag is a representation of their heritage and southern pride. According to a CNN new’s poll, this comprised fifty-seven percent of the southern population. This is what served as the impetus for Cole’s artwork seen here. While it is very simple, it is also very provocative. I myself find the cartoon very revealing, both in the way that the subtle notes given in the cartoon present a clear agenda, as well a painted picture of our own ignorance.
Depicted in the cartoon are two men, seemingly similar in age. One black, the other white. The only other differences are the mismatching confederate shirts, and the white gentleman’s green hat, both giving the composition great depth. On the white gentleman’s shirt is a traditional confederate battle flag, no doubt expressing his southern pride and his heritage. While on the black gentleman’s shirt is a confederate flag, but instead of stars, there are chains; no doubt expressing his views on what comes to mind when he thinks of that same confederate battle flag. He sees it as a reminder of the two-hundred and forty-five years of African-American slavery. As if this statement wasn’t enough, Cole added one more touch to the cartoon to impress his views. Recall back to the green hat that the white gentleman is wearing as well as the black outlined “Heritage” logo up above. With this Cole is reminding us that while the black man suffered under the painful rays of his heritage, the white man remembers his heritage as shaded and voided of pain, protected by his hat, just as the slave owners did with their hats. Cole is suggesting here that many conservative caucasian americans do not feel offended by the confederate flag because they were not the ones being enslaved, thus the emotive nature of the flag does not appeal to them as it does the African-American population.
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, this picture, with all it’s simplicity, makes a very grand statement. What is that statement? That whether the confederate flag represents racism or heritage is irrelevant. The reminder that the flag gives us, is slavery. The entire history of the flag is rooted in racism; the heritage, if you will, is the enslavement of African-Americans. Consider the name: Confederate battle flag; what does that represent to you? To me, it represents everything the south stood for: Their pride, their heritage, their philosophies. Representing a culture that was built on the backbone of racism is not something I, or any of us for that matter, should be proud of. However, many argue that the flag represents where they came from, the south. That it’s not a flag of racism, it’s about their culture and upbringing. Which I want to point out, that unless you were born in the 90’s, racism was a large part of your culture in the south; but I will indulge. The symbol of Nazi Germany for example, the swastika. Before it’s use by Germany in world war two, it was a sign of peace and success, a religious sign. The Nazi party decided to morph it’s meaning and perverse it’s intended impact on the world. Tell me, if I were to fly a Nazi flag by the nation’s capitol, would I be greeted with peace, or with enmity? Would people remember the flag’s heritage and culture, or would they remember the horrendous acts attributed to the flag by the Nazi party? The flag has become transmuted into an unintended statement of fascism and mass-murder, just as the confederate flag(although it never really was a symbol of peace) has transmuted into a flagrant symbol of racism and enslavement.
This cartoon brings much to our plate to ruminate about, indeed, the artist’s intention. His purpose? To give us a an unbiased perspective of the matter at hand. To look at the situation both through the lens of white conservative america, and black. Through Cole’s piece, we can see how he wishes to portray the naivety of the white population, as well as the lingering hurt of the black population. Cole brings us this composition in the midst of great contention between the two parties, so that perspective could be given. And perspective, he gave.