A lot of things are floating around inside my brain right now and it is difficult to know exactly where to begin getting them all out in writing this. Back when I was in college, a few years ago, I had to write lots and lots of papers. During that time I developed a strategy for writing, or I should say someone somewhere unknown now planted the thought, that simply the best way to begin is to just begin. Letting the process of writing actually lead back to a beginning, and so it shall be with this post about racism.
Recently there was a demonstration in Washington DC about the on-going health reform legislation currently taking shape in congress. At this demonstration there were Confederate flags as well as some of characterizations of President Obama that were if not down right racist were at least subtly so. Former President Jimmy Carter has come out and said that he feels that there is an definite racist undercurrent in all of the protests, that many Americans simply cannot accept an African-American as president.
President Obama has subsequently come out and said that he doesn’t see it as racist. My feeling is that he is being gracious and practical, unfortunate in that if he steps into the quagmire he certainly will meet with a typical white response that there is no racism and he is just playing the race card. A sad and shallow cop-out used by white people to avoid challenging themselves and their views.
Heck, white men frequently don’t want to even consider the privelage that accrues to them just by the fact of their race and gender.
So, if this isn’t about race or if there is no racism then explain to me what place a Confederate flag has at a health care reform rally? I can see no reason other than to convey a message that there are white people, perhaps hiding behind a myth of Southern heritage, who feel that there is no place in this debate or in America for a non-white president.
Further if the Confederate battle flag is not a symbol of hate then why is it that at every neo-Nazi, white supremacists, and Klan rally is it to be seen in abundance. A good friend of mine several years ago said something profound to me that I had not considered and I have not forgotten. If the Confederate flag isn’t a symbol of hate then why haven’t the Souther Heritage groups fought more vocally and strongly against its use at hate rallies? Why is it that the heritage groups remain silent when it is used as a symbol of hate?
That flag, really only stands for one thing, at a fundamental level, and that is the continuation of slavery and the misguided pride in a slave holding south. Oh yes, there are of course arguments that people make about it being about states rights, but what right is core to that argument other than slavery?
Again, where is the heritage voice when that flag is waved at rallies that have nothing to do with a remembrance? It is no where to be heard, and so in that silence the heritage groups have lost their authentic claim to it NOT being a racist emblem.
I am from the south and for a few years when I was 7th and 8th grade I got caught up in the whole Confederate Southern Heritage idea, with even the thought to join the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I researched our family and found many interesting facts. Yes I had Great-Great-Grandfathers who fought in the Confederate Army. I also found that our family owned five plantations in Georgia and Florida and each one had numerous slaves. There isn’t a lot in that find to be proud of, is there.
I don’t condemn my deceased relatives for the past. My rationalities and sensibilities have all been nurtured in a different world. I don’t justify their actions either. I guess you could say the best that I am is neutral when judging the past, there really isn’t any way I can judge it, is there?
I live today, and today I know that slavery is wrong. I know that prejudice is wrong and I struggle constantly with a fundamental distaste and disagreement with the influences I lived under growing up. I struggle with insuring that the way I live is in accord with my belief in equality.
I can not correct the wrongs of the past, but I am capable and I also feel responsible to do the right thing in the present.
Again, I ask what place does the Confederate flag have at a demonstration concerning national policy? Simply stated, none! Further, heritage groups, if they are sincere in their claims about the flag not being a symbol of hate do more to combat its display, and speak out LOUDLY, when it is being used when not appropriate to their self stated claim.
I though, feel that it only stands for hatred and racism! The proof for that claim is too easy to find and the proof against it is virtually if not completely impossible to find.