I have delayed commenting directly on the tension between white (mostly conservative) southerners and essentially everyone else in this country. My reasons in doing so have been rooted in the confidence that I have in southern conservatives to be rebellious, stubborn and reject progression. I knew that there would be resistance, unlike anything we have seen in quite some time, but the images that I have seen and the statements that I have read and heard have offended me in the most necessary way possible. The South is burning, both figuratively and literally, and the flames burn the hottest and brightest in the same places that hold dearly to the old spirits of rebellion and white supremacy.
As a native of Birmingham, Alabama and a proud southerner, I once again feel displaced in a region that I have called home for all of my life. I love the mild winters, humid summers, and good food. I enjoy hunting and fishing in the many forests and rivers of Dixieland. I live and die for SEC football. Despite perceptions, the South is full of good, kind people who love the simplicity of their lifestyle and have tremendous pride and deep-hearted affection for their communities, cities and states. I like to believe that I am one of them. But whenever an issue of race arises, southern blacks are driven to have their pride as southerners confronted with feelings of hate, disrespect, and dislocation. As the day that we recognize the birth of this nation approaches, we should be celebrating the freedom, equality and democracy that we herald so proudly as Americans. Instead we are (again) enthralled in disputes that have historically been the most divisive in our country’s history… race & equality.
Let’s be real, it has been a ROUGH couple of weeks for conservatives (racists and homophobes alike), particularly in the south, but it is all self-imposed (keep in mind that it has been a rough couple of CENTURIES for Black people in America, at no choice of our own). Many have tried to hide insensitivity, obliviousness and ignorance under the veil of conservatism and religion. It is not necessarily the hateful acts of terrorism against Black people that has shown us how far we HAVE FAILED to come as a nation. We know that “post-racial” bullshit is thrown around to undermine the fact that systemic and institutional racism are far more detrimental to people of color than any overt and direct act. It is the “anonymous” support and defensive of such acts that is the most disappointing. It is the irony that supporters of the Confederate flag protest about freedom of expression and the “threat” against their livelihood are the same people who advocate to restrict those same freedoms for others and want the government to impede others from living the lives that they desire. Yes… the irony (-___-).
A good friend of mine and I had a conversation about our feelings towards southern heritage and Confederate flag. My friend is a white male, native to Louisiana. His ancestors participated in the Civil War as doctors for Confederate troops. He vehemently expressed to me his pride in the courage, valiance, and compassion shown by his ancestors as they lost their lives while trying to save the lives of wounded soldiers. To him, the flag symbolizes valor, family, heritage and sacrifice. I told him that I understood and that anyone who loses their life as the result of trying to save another will always be a hero in my book. I also reminded him not to ignore the reasons why that war was fought. I told him that I wish that I could have had doctors in my family to help assist those in need back then, but I did not because my ancestors were slaves. I explained to him that most black people see that flag as a symbol of hate, supremacy, oppression and inhumanity. The fact that people were (some still are) willing to give their lives for such as cause was implausible and repulsive. Finally I asked him if that symbol, and everything that it stood for, is what you would like to be representative of you, your family and your heritage? He thoughtfully answered, “No.”
The motivating factors that encouraged a twenty one year-old kid in South Carolina to walk into a Black church, with wanton murder on mind and hate in his heart, are the same ones that are the cause of numerous black churches across the southeast being burned to the ground. That flag and what it TRULY represents is the insignia in which these terrorists find solace, power and purpose. Its sole purpose in creation was to inspire feelings of defiance, division, and white supremacy. It is the seed from which racism grew. It is a tribute to the “Old South” and the way things used to be. It is a homage to a “simpler time”, as I have been told. I ask that these people take a forward step out their oblivion to see that the “simpler time” so many of them affectionately speak of, is a time in which the equality of the races and sexes was non-existent. This was the time that a war fought by poor whites because of the greed of wealthy white slave owners. This was the time that a war fought to preserve power and the domination of an entire race of people. It is impossible to redefine a physical symbol that is so deeply representative of tyranny and injustice. You cannot “take back” something that you have always owned. That flag flew blazingly under the southern sun as the banner for oppression, greed and malevolent rebellion. In today’s America, that flag flies as a reminder that the spirit of the oppression, supremacy, and racial indecency is alive and well.