Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On subverting symbols, why I wrote Captain Confederacy, and the current Confederate flag controversy

Let’s get the big one out of the way: No Confederate flag should have a place of honor on a US federal, state, county, or town government building. They are the flags of a 19th-century slaveocracy, 400,000 rich Americans of all races who seceded because they wanted to keep owning humans. Most of them were white Christians, but the group included black people like William Ellison and Maria Weston, Jews like the Confederacy’s Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, Native Americans like General Isaac Stand Watie, and Asian Americans like Christopher and Stephen Bunker, the children of Siamese twins Chang and Eng. What united the Confederate ruling class was the willingness to buy and sell slaves of African descent. The last flag of slavery fell at Appomattox and never should have been formally raised again. But it returned during the Jim Crow era when Southern states opposed the civil rights initiatives.
And now, the but: No flag should be banned. Make symbols taboo, and you give them power. The way to weaken symbols is to subvert them. That was my intention when I wrote Captain Confederacy. This is the original cover to the first issue:
As the author of Captain Confederacy, I’ll give you your answer about the guy in the snake suit: in the first issue, he was an actor in a propaganda unit in a racist parallel world Confederacy. He turns against the program. The series had two arcs: the first focused on the white guy who played Captain Confederacy. In the second, published by Marvel’s Epic Comics division, a black woman became Captain Confederacy. The whole thing began as a comment on nationalistic superheroes because there’s something about wearing flags and hitting people that has always bothered me.
Historical footnote: A Captain Marvel one-shot from Marvel featuring Monica Rambeau was the first comic book from a major company that starred a black female superhero. The second Captain Confederacy series from Epic was the first comic book series from a major company that starred a black female superhero. I’m a little proud of that.
And last, I completely agree that the Confederate flag has no place on any government building in the USA.
This post was inspired by When Anti-Racists Adopted the Confederate Battle Flag — Hit & Run : Reason.com. Its use of “anti-racist” seems ahistorical — at least, I never encountered the term then — but the article’s interesting for any student of the civil rights era.

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