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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Confederate Flag

I grew up seeing the Southern Cross confederate flag (a stretch of one of many confederate flags) as a symbol of Southern Pride, doing the right thing, having a little fun - and the Dukes of Hazzard kind of good ole boys - never meaning no harm.  For me, and many poor white folk in the south, it did not mean racism.  It meant having a little pride when there was not much to be proud of.  "We may have been beat, but we're not beaten."  A symbol of "when you get knocked down, stand right back up!"

Now, I realize that all the talk about the Civil War was fought over State's Rights and Taxes and other stuff is, although founded in some actual issues of the time, just not really the case.  Slavery was the cause for the Southern states.
"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun." - from A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.
 That reality was, and is, hard to come to terms with.  It goes against what I believed growing up, what I was told and taught.

The same with the Confederate Flag - the Southern Cross flag, which is a stretched out version of the battle flag of Virginia. We didn't see it as meaning what it does to so many.  Coming to terms with the fact that it DOES represent Hate, Racism and Terror for a very large number of people was difficult.  It is used by the KKK - a white christian hate group.  It was created for that exact reason - to instill terror in people of color.  For many people, it brings up images of burning crosses in yards, white hoods with weapons in hand, nooses, lynchings.  The Southern Cross flag is to people of color what the Swastika is to the Jewish people.  They are often waved together!

Knowing what it means to people of color, I can no longer imagine that it is anything but a symbol of terror.  It has been hard losing what I thought it was... what it meant to me.  But I could no more fly or defend the Southern Cross any more than I could fly or defend the Nazi flag.

Getting other people who grew up like I did to see that, to realize the facts and to support removing the flag from state flags and stop flying it or wearing it - that is going to be hard.  You have to realize that for many of them it really does not represent slavery and hate.  It represents at least a little something to be proud of, resilience, heritage, not being held down - hope.  Destroying the symbols of people's childhoods doesn't make for a good basis for building relationships.

It is hard to realize that when you fly the Southern Cross flag, you are, even inadvertently, supporting things like this:

On the other side, it is important to realize that the Confederate Flag does represent Heritage and Southern Pride to a lot of people who are not racist.  If you are looking to change hearts and minds, then desecrating memorials and graves is not the way to go about it.  It would be better to help people realize what the flag means to those who have been terrorized by people waving it.  Help people realize that just because they think of it one way, doesn't mean that other people see it the same way - and that sometimes it is worth giving up a symbol in order to not cause distress to others.

There are good people who really do not realize what the flag symbolizes for people of color.  Losing a beloved reminder of their childhood, a piece of their pride, an image of resilience, is not going to be easy.

It can't be about what race has to be humble and apologize for past behavior.  It has to be about coming to terms with the past, coming to an understanding of how things are and working together to move forward.

... on "how things are"... It doesn't take much to see that harsh laws are applied differently to black people than they are to white people.  The question is how to stop it!  From the obscene treatment of the Scott Sisters to the unequal application of Stand Your Ground, the ... the bullshit is systemic. Poor white people are often victims of our blatantly corrupt legal system, but not as often or too the same degree.

When we come to the realization that our we are not actually that different, that "Race" is propaganda, segregating ourselves based on the color of our skin is just plain silly and start to join together against the injustices that harm us all - that is when we start to make a difference.