Bridging the Gap Between Us

Republicans and democrats have historically been divided by their strongly held belief systems. In the wake of recent events regarding racial injustice, many republicans and democratic lawmakers have attempted to come together to find common ground on the increasingly important social issue of racial injustice. For many people in today’s society, the confederate flag symbolizes the promotion of slavery and the advocation of white supremacy, however others “still use the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage or pride” (“Confederate Flag,” n.d.). Many republicans and democrats have a different perspective about the meaning behind the flag, however increasing examples in recent events have shown that the flag is being used as a way to spread fear and hate. According to an article in the New York Times, the confederate flag is “a symbol of intimation… those who fly the Confederate battle flag tell the black community that they are outside of society, and should fear attempts to be part of it” (Combs, 2015).

On June 29th, 2020 “a conservative Republican majority in the Mississippi state legislature worked alongside Democrats to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag” (“Hidden Common Ground: Strange Bedfellows,” 2020). Mississippi was the last state to remove the Confederate flag and replace it with a brand-new design. In a 37-14 Senate vote and 91-23 House vote, the bill for the removal of the confederate flag was passed within a majority Republican dominated Senate and House of Representatives. In an article describing republicans and democrats coming together, the author writes, “House Democratic leader Rep. Robert Johnson of Natchez said the vote and discussion that led up to [the decision to remove the Confederate flag] helped bridge racial divides in the Legislature” (Beveridge, 2020).

In discussing the decision, both republican and democratic lawmakers were able to learn more about the view of the “other side.” Both political parties were able to better understand what exactly were the thoughts and opinions that dominated their decisions. Many conservative republicans were able to see and acknowledge how the Confederate flag is linked to the enslavement and oppression of Black Americans and how the removal of it would show support towards eliminating injustice and discrimination. Many democrats were able to realize that for some individuals the flag solely represents “Southern heritage” that they do not believe is rooted in racism. In combining these two perspectives, both republicans and democrats were able to agree that removing the flag and replacing it with a new design would be in the best interest of society. This was ultimately accomplished through ‘listening with curiosity’ and being able to truly place oneself in the perspective of the other person (Patton et al., 2011). It is clear that Black Americans in particular face an assortment of injustices within American society. This decision to remove the Confederate flag is one way in which republicans and democratic leaders and representatives are able to come together to show support and solidarity in the condemnation of discrimination against Black Americans.

There have been previous attempts to remove the confederate flag in Mississippi, however they have been unsuccessful up to this point. Back in 2001, republican and democratic lawmakers were unable to find common ground on the issue due to the fact that both parties were unwilling to listen and constructively discuss not only what the flag symbolizes to many Americans, but also the ways in which the flag is oftentimes used within society. Instead of listening to one another about the reasons why they approve or disapprove of the removal of the Confederate flag, republican and democratic leaders and representatives left it to the voters to decide. In doing so, it sent the message that the issue is not one that is of significant importance and is not one that needs to be addressed promptly. By simply leaving it to voters to decide, republican and democratic leaders and representatives opted out of truly understanding and considering the perspectives held by each party.

Ultimately the push to remove the confederate flag in 2020 emerged in response to the increased awareness and recognition of injustices against Black Americans. The George Floyd protests along with other similar protests advocating for racial justice provided significant traction and support for the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). Following the surge of BLM protests, republican and democratic leaders and representatives placed the responsibility of finding a resolution off the shoulders of voters and onto themselves. Both republican and democratic leaders and representatives felt obligated to revisit the issue revolving around the Confederate flag and come together to decide what the best course of action would be. Both republicans and democrats decided that drafting and introducing a bill to remove and replace the Mississippi state flag was the necessary course of action. In coming to this decision, it ultimately prevented further escalation between republicans and democrats.

If republican and democratic lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement, many Americans would have felt outraged by the decision to let the flag remain, and significant backlash would have resulted from their inaction. In coming together and passing this bill in the state of Mississippi, republicans and democrats were able to acknowledge that even though they possess differences in beliefs, compromise and common ground is not impossible. As stated in the article titled Ways Republicans and Democrats have found common ground during Contentious 2020 Election, “The resolution of the decades-long controversy is not the end of the story. Indeed, it is just one example of how Democrats and Republicans, Black and white Americans, people of different generations and many, many others can bridge divides and solve problems” (“Hidden Common Ground: Strange Bedfellows,” 2020). Bridging the gap between those with differing belief systems is possible, it just requires both parties to be willing to listen and engage in active conversation about the issue at hand.

ENDNOTES

Beveridge, L. (2020, October 19). Mississippi flag: Republicans, Democrats work together to remove Confederate symbol. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2020/10/19/mississippi-flag-lawmakers-work-together-remove-confederate-symbol/5909802002/

Combs, B. (2015, December 22). Hatred or Heritage? Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/19/does-the-confederate-flag-breed-racism/the-confederate-battle-flag-is-a-symbol-of-intimidation

Confederate Flag. (n.d.). Retrieved November 18, 2020, from

https://www.adl.org/education/references/hate-symbols/confederate-flag

Patton, Bruce, et al. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most.

Portfolio/Penguin, 2011. 

Person. (2020, October 26). Ways Republicans and Democrats have found common ground during contentious 2020 election. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/politics/elections/hiddencommonground/2020/10/20/strange-bedfellows-highlights-how-people-bridging-partisan-divides/3650824001/

Staff, H. (2020, June 29). The True History of the Confederate Flag. Retrieved November 18, 2020, from https://www.historynet.com/embattled-banner-the-true-history-of-the-confederate-flag.htm

 

                        author

Maria Shanks

Maria Shanks is a undergraduate student at the University of Oregon majoring in Psychology and double minoring in Chinese and Legal Studies. Her area of focus is in Social Psychology. At her university, she is a lab assistant for the Social and Affective Neuroscience (SAN) lab which is a part… MORE >

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