Visiting African American students see Confederate battle flag flying at Waiheke

By Mare Haimona-Riki
The Waiheke Island tractor driver. Source/File.

A man was seen flying the Confederate Battle Flag at Onetangi Beach on Waiheke, Sunday afternoon. Bianca Ranson (Ngāpuhi) who was hosting a group of American students - four of which were African Americans were appalled by the gesture. 

For two of the four students, it was the first time they’ve ever seen this flag in person.

“They came over to Aotearoa to get away from racism, only to get to our shores and see that flying for the first time, so they've never seen it back home even though it's highly controversial," Ranson says.

When the flag was initially spotted by Ranson and her group, she immediately asked the man to take the flag down from his tractor, which he initially refused saying its from the Dukes of Hazzard movie. 

“For those that know the history of the confederate flag. For Americans, particularly or African Americans, it's deeply hurtful and upsetting,” Ranson says.  

After an impromptu history lesson by Ranson regarding the flag and what it symbolised, the man proceeded to fold up the flag and cover it out of plain view.

Ranson found out the next day, the man was unaware of the flag and what it represented and had offered to apologize to the African American students.

“I would say if you're flying a flag then you know the meaning of it, and if you don't know the meaning of it.

"Especially if it's some that is used with far-right groups that are associated with white supremacy and things like that.

"It's really important that you do understand those things. Coz if that's not what you believe, then you don't fly that flag."

Te Ao reached out to speak with the students but did not have permission from their school. 

About the Confederate Battle Flag

The Confederate Battle Flag. Source/Wikipedia

In 1861, seven southern states broke away from the USA to form their own republic. They called themselves the Confederated States of America (CSA). The American Civil War was the result, and an estimated 850,000 people would die.

A major reason for the secession was the growing anti-slavery sentiment in the northern states. The seven states in the south felt that the rest of the union were working to get rid of slavery. This would have an adverse effect the economy of the slave states, as their economy relied on slave labour for its major exports.

This became official when two years later, President Abraham Lincoln issued the famous 'Emancipation Proclamation' which stated that all slaves in the CSA were free.

Although the CSA has since been disbanded, and the seven states have since returned back to the Union, their former battle flag has since become a symbol of racism, slavery, and the Southern States culture. Some states even incorporated it into their own state flags.

Its' popularity is such that this battle is mistaken, by many, to be the official flag of the CSA. The Confederate Battle Flag was flown by CSA forces during the American Civil War, and never used as the flag of their short lived republic.