As a Blue State transplant to a Red State, I’ve had to get used to seeing a symbol I’ve always associated with hate flying proudly from public and private spaces by people who disregard my feelings on the subject as easily as they overlook the blood and sweat of my ancestors in their history. Confederate flags on houses, trailers, pickups, bumper stickers, baseball caps and tee shirts -- the symbol abounds in the South.
And on those occasions when I’ve had conversations about the meaning of that flag to those who wield it, I’ve been told that the flag is a symbol of “heritage, not hate.”
No symbol stands for one thing to all people. The U.S. flag may stir feelings of pride and patriotism in some, while it may bring to mind the specter of imperialism and exploitation to others.
So I fully understand how the confederate flag could be a symbol of white southern heritage for some even as it stands for white supremacy and Black genocide for others. I say white southern heritage and not just southern heritage because I believe that white southerners are the only ones who have any positive associations with that flag – and rich white ones at that given the fact that the phrase “poor white trash” was a slur originating from rich white southerners to describe their less fortunate brethren.
Clearly, there were some things about southern heritage that were not completely steeped in the evil of slavery --- although I must admit I’m at a loss to think of any. Southern cuisine – nope that was invented by Black folks; antebellum architecture – nope that was built by slave labor; southern fashion – nope again, since it was designed and stitched by slave hands; southern music – that would be another “no”; plantation leisure lifestyle – well, that description pretty much sums up why that one doesn’t make the cut.
But in any event, I will concede that there may be some aspects of white southern heritage for which some people believe the confederate flag stands that do not directly represent and advocate the wholesale murder of my people. And it is to those people I address the rest of my comments.
If you truly believe that your celebration and glorification of your southern heritage does not stand for hate, now is the time to make your voice heard. If you understand that slavery was an evil institution, but have pride in your forebears for their other accomplishments, then do not let the hate mongers waving your flag co-opt the symbol of your heritage. If you decry the low-minded vitriol spewed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis and skinheads and Klansmen and whatever other stripe of losers claim your symbol for their own – stand up and be heard!
If you want to honor your heritage and not endorse hate, snatch the sheet off the Klansmen, don’t let them fly your flag as a banner of hate, and help this sadly tattered country move forward in unity against those who would have us retreat on the path of enlightenment.
Don’t let the cancer of race hatred in this country grow even further. The body politic cannot survive the disease.