Artifact: Civil Wardrobe

Credit: Reason MagazineCredit: Reason Magazine

Yes, that is a descendant of slaves, and yes, that's a Confederate flag on his shirt. The shirtmaker, a black-owned South Carolina company called NuSouth, has recast the cross in red, black, and green, the colors of African liberation. Stirring further trouble, the company's founders have marched on their state legislature, demanding that it lower the Confederate emblem that currently flies above the capitol--and replace it with their logo.

This was something new: The Confederate flag has many defenders and detractors, but few would merely like it to ...evolve. But why not? In different contexts, the Southern Cross might represent racism, regional pride, or an enthusiasm for Lynyrd Skynyrd; there's no sense in branding everyone who waves it a closet Ku Kluxer. Meanwhile, the flag's partisans have made an almost identical mistake, claiming their Confederate relics bond them to a timeless tradition rather than a highly contingent, constantly changing bundle of meanings.

Best, then, to shake off those interpretive shackles and let these symbols evolve more freely. The NuSouth logo may be factitious, gimmicky, even crass, but it hints at more truths about Dixie than any bromides about the Old South or platitudes about the New. Fly it proudly.

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