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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Let’s Separate the Confederate Flag from Southern Pride

In a new poll dated Aug. 15, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that by only the slimmest of margins, 51% of Americans see the Confederate flag as a symbol of “Southern pride.”  Eight of out 10 black Americans, though, see it as a symbol of racism and hate.  Among whites, 59 percent of men and 60 percent of women say the flag represents Southern pride.

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Eighty percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents say they also “see the Confederate flag as more of a symbol of southern pride than racism.”   Only 28 percent of Democrats agree.

I’m personally appalled by these statistics.

If Charlottesville, VA is any indication at all of what the Klan and other hate groups mean when they say ‘southern pride,’ the 51% who agree need to shake themselves awake.

There is no similar geographical “pride-divide” in America for the North, West or East.  We don’t have Northern Pride or Western Pride or Eastern Pride.  Why, then, Southern Pride?  What is it about southern pride that requires a special embrace?  I mean, how long must it take for all Americans to just be American?  Why must we still have two flags?   Why is the South still struggling with the rest of the nation in an ideological war that centered on the South’s desire to maintain slavery?  Why can’t Southerners have “American Pride?” Why must this division– rooted in the South’s desire to maintain this peculiar institution– still dominate our lives?

Maybe “American pride” is just too amorphous a term for some who still hate that the old slavery-supported, white-privileged lifestyle was interrupted by the declarations of Abraham Lincoln, and by the passage of laws that frustrated the black codes and Jim Crow laws that followed.

I apologize if my passion shows through, but why is it that black Americans have to “get over” the legacy of slavery, but white southerners don’t have to get over the Civil War?

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The South politely overlooks the fact that the very fiber of its being—its culture, its ethos– is deeply embedded in racism and white supremacy.  Being proud of the South’s history, as contradistinct from the history of the entire nation, separates out and celebrates the way life was lived in the southern states.  And for blacks in particular, there wasn’t a lot in the south to be proud about.

The Confederate flag was born out of the struggle of 11 states that didn’t want to be told they had to set their slaves free.  If the South had gotten its way, slavery would still be alive and well– and legal– today.

As the swastika is to the Jews, so is every Confederate flag and statue of a slavery-advocating racist to the black man and woman of America.

Why can’t we just embrace the good stuff about the South– Southern cooking and Southern heritage, the South’s laid-back, casual approach to daily living, the strong sense of family and structure it reveled in, and yes, even its broad racial diversity– without dragging along the Confederate flag and the statues of men who championed the cause of slavery?

Say what you will, these symbols are caustic.  They glorify an economy and a way of life that produced a system of government that thrived on enslavement, hate and violence, and upon a complete lack of respect for the fundamental humanity of those it brutally oppressed.

 

I am old enough to have heard the tales my grandfather told of his father’s stories about life on the slave plantation.  You can’t pretty up those days.  You can’t gloss over the depth of the pain it caused.  You can’t diminish the devastating impact it had on the black family.

The ideologies of the neo-Nazis and the Aryan Brotherhood, the white nationalists and white supremacists and the Alt-Right as well must unashamedly be opposed.  And anyone who attempts to justify those beliefs or their place in our society will hopefully find themselves on the wrong side of history for all time to come.  We cannot go back.

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