Saying no to the SCV, hatred


Yejean Kim

According to the website for the Stonewall Brigade Camp, Rockbridge County’s branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization that seeks to “preserv[e] the history and legacy” of the “citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy” because they “personified the best qualities of America.”

The SCV is an organization that is unafraid to publicly display its beliefs. Anyone who has seen its members wielding huge Confederate flags around Lexington can attest to that.

A recent disagreement between the SCV and the University in early September was no exception, when the organization was denied access to Lee Chapel for an annual event it holds to honor Lee-Jackson Day.

According to an article on College Fix, one SCV member sent an email to President Ruscio accusing him of being “anti-white history-revising filth,” while other SCV members, some identifying as themselves as leaders, called Ruscio “the nation’s most notorious grave robber,” a “tyrant,” and a “fu**ing Marxist co**sucker.”

Vulgarity aside, such communication clearly demonstrates the SCV’s stance on the University’s refusal. It also displays a problematic simplification on the SCV’s part: it seems that the ones partaking in “history-revising” are the SCV.

When I think of the SCV I think of its flaggers, who are by far the most visible of its members to W&L students. The complex role Confederate flags currently play on campus was addressed last summer, when six law students known as “The Committee” went to the media and the administration in an attempt to have replica Confederate flags removed from the main room of the chapel.

While I disagreed with that group’s methods, most of its allegations and its seeming contempt for the undergraduate population, I did agree that the flags in Lee Chapel could no longer be overlooked. They are no longer a harmless symbol of a simpler time, a matter of regional pride, or an aesthetic tribute to our school’s rich history.

Times change, and with them, so do symbols. What was once merely the flag of a certain region is now an oft-employed tool for modern racism. This is 2015 and the flag should be treated accordingly: as a relic.

The SCV has frequently ignored the harmful ramifications of waving a banner that stands for one of the greatest human rights’ violations in history, insisting that it stands instead for purer ideals. Ignoring one part of history and substituting it with another that is more suitable to one’s ideals is revisionist.

That being said, should the SCV have been banned from holding their event in Lee Chapel?

This is a much murkier question than the appropriateness of the Confederate flags its members are fond of brandishing. It raises some uncomfortable conflicts for not only the University but also its students. Should the University be allowed to police others’ self-expression?

The answer is yes, but not for the reasons some students dread. I believe there are appropriate occasions to question the University’s, at times, overwhelming authority over our lives and the lives in the surrounding community but this is not one of them.

Lee Chapel is a private building for private use that sits on the grounds of a private institution. The university’s right to refuse the SCV entry is, ironically, one of the “best qualities of America” that the SCV is trying so hard to protect.

An organization that has continuously disrespected the university, its president and its students, as well as made statements of a threatening nature should not be allowed to use Lee Chapel.

The university’s refusal to host the SCV in Lee Chapel is not a message disrespecting the great Confederate figures that helped shape the school’s history. Instead, it is a message that hatred, even disguised as loyalty, should not be tolerated.