- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 9, 2015

Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, who announced last week he is seeking the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said Thursday the Confederate battle flag has “long been due” to come down, but once again urged people to keep in mind the broader context of the Civil War and the American South.

Mr. Webb was asked on “CBS This Morning” about South Carolina’s move to take down the Confederate battle flag from state Capitol grounds.

“I think it’s long been due to come down,” Mr. Webb said. “The Confederate battle flag was a battle flag — it assumed a lot of unfortunate racist and divisionist overtones during the Civil Rights era.”

“At the same time, I’ve been trying to reinforce that we need to remember two other parts of our history here,” he said. “One is a very complex history of the Civil War itself.”

He pointed to research from John Hope Franklin, a black historian, saying that just 5 percent of whites in the South owned slaves and about 25 percent of whites had benefitted economically from the slave system — numbers Mr. Webb also mentions in his new book, “I Heard My Country Calling.”

“While at the same time there were four slave states that remained in the Union during the Civil War — Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware,” said Mr. Webb, a Vietnam War veteran. “And so if you were a young person being called to duty during that period, this was a very complicated decision to make, and we should remember that.”

In the wake of the the recent South Carolina shootings, Mr. Webb had been among the last of the major 2016 contenders to weigh in publicly on the Confederate flag issue, saying in a statement that the flag has “wrongly been used” for racist and other purposes in recent decades while urging respect for the “complicated” history of the war.

“Actually, I did say that it did not belong in public places,” Mr. Webb said Thursday. “But … my concern was that this would go beyond the issues of harmony and unity that we want to keep on the table and into issues that, again, divide us.”

“I think we’ve seen a great sense of growth of unity in the American South since the Civil Rights era, and the South has never been white against black per se — it’s always been a small veneer manipulating the emotions of white against black for all these other reasons, and we need to look at jobs, we need to look at education, we need to look [to] harmony and bringing people together,” he continued.


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