Banning the “Stars and Bars” from Marine Corps Installations is NOT a Nod to “Revisionist History”

Harrison Bergeron
7 min readJun 8, 2020


On 6 June 2020, the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, General David Berger, issued MARADMIN 331/20, which:


The battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

A friend characterized this policy as imposing a “leftist narrative of hate over heritage,” and as “a clear message to Marines from the South — ‘You are lesser Marine’s because your heritage is no longer politically acceptable.’”

I respectfully disagree with his characterization of a policy that has been a long time coming and will hopefully be applied in the other branches of the military.

I’m sympathetic to the cause for a number of reasons. To begin, my grandmother grew up in Texas in the 1930s and she told me all about her experiences as a Mexican in a Jim Crow state. She lived the same segregation experience as Blacks, including sitting in the back of the bus and attending segregated schools.

Being married to a Black woman, I have experienced some of the unpleasantness that Black Americans face every single day. We’ve been followed in stores and were even Terry-stopped in South Carolina last year. She is from Baltimore and peacefully protested in the 2015 protests in Baltimore.

The author’s wife, peacefully protesting during the 2015 Baltimore Protests

When I was given the opportunity to go on a “staff ride” with fellow Naval Academy faculty in July 2018, I jumped on it. We flew to Birmingham and over the next week visited: 16th St. Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Selma (we walked over the Edmund Pettus Bridge), Dexter Ave Church, the Equal Justice Initiative (the recently-released movie “Just Mercy” is about the founding of the EJI), the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Civil Rights Memorial, visited Ole Miss to see the monument to James Meredith and the Civil War grave, had dinner with Ray Terry and his family (he was a DOJ attorney who specialized in civil rights cases and his mother stood up for Black workers in her workplace and was harassed by the KKK), and finally ended our trip at the National Civil Rights Museum (the Lorraine Motel).

So what did I learn? For one thing, I learned the truth about monuments and schools that are named for Confederate figures.

Take a look at this site:

“The dedication of Confederate monuments and the use of Confederate names and other iconography began shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865. But two distinct periods saw significant spikes.

The first began around 1900 as Southern states were enacting Jim Crow laws to disenfranchise African Americans and re-segregate society after several decades of integration that followed Reconstruction. It lasted well into the 1920s, a period that also saw a strong revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Many of these monuments were sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The second period began in the mid-1950s and lasted until the late 1960s, the period encompassing the modern civil rights movement.

While new monument activity has died down, since the 1980s the Sons of Confederate Veterans has continued to erect new monuments.”

About that second period in the 1950s…

The Brown decision in 1954 is often interpreted in history class as the moment when schools suddenly became desegregated. That did not happen. What actually happened are a number of things: in the South, the majority of white families pulled their kids out of public schools and set up charter schools. This effectively kept the status quo, and when local governments defunded their public schools and authorized money to get dumped into the charter schools, Black and Hispanic students remained in separate but inferior schools. Schools were then named for all the usual Confederate figures. As with the monuments, the school names were intended to intimidate and remind Blacks of “their place.”

Regarding the Army of Northern Virginia flag, the “Stars and Bars” . . .

“The explicit use of the Confederate flag as a symbol of segregation became more widespread and more violent after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision. Southern states resisting federally-mandated integration incorporated the flag into their official symbolism.”

Maybe some truly wonderful Southern citizens see the flag as a symbol of all the great things about Southern living. I’m a transplant to Florida and agree there a lot of good things in the South. However, the flag’s origins were in secession and preservation of slavery. Just like how the swastika is an ancient spiritual symbol, but used in a flag that form it’s origin stood for oppression and racist ideologies, it can’t be reclaimed in Western society.

To say the Marine Corps has taken a side in a political fight is not accurate. We on active duty are allowed to support apolitical causes. This includes the ongoing demonstrations against racism in law enforcement. I am well within my right to march in a demonstration so long as I’m not wearing any clothing to associate myself with the military. Similarly, our military top brass have the authority and obligation to ban offensive symbols from their installations. This includes bumper stickers with the ANV flag but could also include the Bonnie Blue flag, which was the actual national flag of the Confederate States of America and bears a close resemblance to the window sticker a Rear Admiral (Lower Half) would display on their windshield for that cool parking spot. In fact, I predict as America moves forward with banning the ANV flag, we will see a lot more stickers that look like this, and I guarantee it won’t be on account of the Navy suddenly promoting thousands of people to the permanent rank of RDML.

CSA Flag (“Bonnie Blue”)
Rear Admiral (Lower Half) Flag

Lastly, we need to be careful with what we consider “revisionist” history. Southern schoolbooks framed the Civil War as being about state’s rights. This version of history is so pervasive I remember being taught it while growing up in California.

Likewise, the story of Rosa Parks as presented in school is revisionist. The truth is that Rosa Parks held leadership positions with her NAACP chapter in Montgomery and they had been trying to create conditions for a bus boycott for months. At least three other females refused to give up their seat but the media coverage just was not happening so Rosa Parks led from the front, got arrested like her predecessors, and finally created a movement. But the kids are presented with a tale of a middle-aged and tired woman who just wanted a seat.

Similarly the Citizens’ Committee in 1892 arranged for Homer Plessy (a Creole who looked white) to buy a ticket for the white train car. The committee put the bug in the train authorities’ ears so they made the conductors ask every passenger in the white cars if they were white. Plessy, of course, told them he was Black, got arrested, and the case was filed. But the kids don’t even learn who Homer Plessy was.

Homer Plessy

In short, the ongoing efforts to relegate symbols of the Confederacy, Jim Crow, and racism to their rightful place in history is not about revisionism or pushing a leftist ideology. These efforts are about ensuring that all Americans can learn the true history. It is a taboo subject that, as of this writing, boiled over and is now in the forefront. America has a problem with racism and has since the very beginning. We need to quit denying that racist history. We need to stop justifying the existence of things that are offensive and exist for intimidation. We need to be honest. And if any revisions to history are happening, it should be focused on erasing the false myths that pervade history curricula in our elementary, middle, and high schools.