I went to the movies a few weeks ago with some friends. My good friend Tony had some other friends meet us there we’ve never met. We entered the theatre and took our seats (one third from the rear, center of the row, as recommended by Roger Ebert). Tony’s friends decided to sit in the first third on the far right and there was, what seemed like a slightly awkward moment where Tony has to decide where he’s going to sit. The movie ends and we manage to rendezvous outside and as much as I would have liked to stay and talked about the movie which is one of my favorite things to do (and it was The Incredible Hulk for Pete’s sake), I rounded up my nephew and cousin after two minutes and left.
I don’t know Tony’s friends but I couldn’t stay. One of them had a shirt with a Confederate Flag and the text: If This Flag Offends You, Maybe You Should Learn Your History.
I had to go.
To me, presenting the Confederate Flag (on their car, in their yard, on their person) is someone who calls me “nigger” behind my back. Maybe to my face but definitely behind my back. It’s one thing to be called nigger, it’s another thing for someone to try to make you feel like an asshole for being offended by it.
Was this that guy? Probably not. I am sure they are nice people (or Tony wouldn’t have anything to do with them). My friend Kendra’s mom had a pink Confederate Flag on a bandana she used to wear and never questioned it until she wore it in a room with me and suddenly she was a little embarrassed. That’s White Privilege and I’ll get to that later. She thought I was mad at her and treated her different, which I didn’t. Paula, that was guilt kicking in and sometimes it stings a little.
Heather Caine and I were once driving back from lunch and on seeing the flag on a truck she told me she didn’t see the problem with it and asked me what I thought and I told her. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the flag of the south. It’s the flag of the Confederacy. The flag of another country formed when a group of people who didn’t like where the country was heading and decided they would succeed and form their own country only surrendering at gunpoint. It was a flag of a country, that after the other first world nations had done away with the practice of slavery deeming it barbaric, they still wanted to own human beings as property. That is what that flag actually is.
She looked at me and said, “you’re right,” and promptly changed her stance.
I’ll get the argument that the Civil War was about state’s rights and not slavery but it’s state’s rights to have slaves. The argument wasn’t about how their taxes should be spent or whether to practice daylight savings time. No states would succeed and let millions go to war to defend abortion or gay marriage. But slavery? Nobody gives up three trillion dollars in property without a fight. People have told me it was about the South losing their culture, traditions and heritage but I never heard of the Union coming in and telling them how they could worship, what songs they could sing, how their foods should be prepared or what clothes they could wear. They were told “lose the slaves.”
For those who argue with me slavery was only one of many factors for the Civil War, I give you the famous Corner Stone speech (Savannah GA, March 21, 1861) of Confederate Vice President Alexander H Stephens one month after he was sworn into office before the Civil War.
“…Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition….”
You can’t read that and with a straight face say the Confederate Flag is a symbol of heritage, not hate. There is a reason Ku Klux Klan is always toting it around with them and it isn’t because it doesn’t clash against the white. It just clashes with everything else.
It sucks to be on the losing team. I was a fat black kid in school and I know that. And whenever a group of people are emotionally wrecked, their denial reinvents the importance of their cause. Reinforce that what you did was okay. Erect statues and glorify something that should be forgotten. There used to be a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse years ago and people would say “wouldn’t you want your ancestors remembered?” and my friend Tiffany told me her grandparents were Nazis during the second World War and they’re family never talked about it, not because it was politically incorrect but because they were ashamed.
Sure, I would want my ancestors remembered… but not for that.
I Googled “Revolutionary War Reenactment” and get 13,100 sites. I Googled “Civil War Reenactment” and get 157,000 hits, roughly twelve times as many. I lived in Pennsylvania, where they wrote the Declaration of Independence, an hour outside Philadelphia. Where they just look for an excuse to dress up as Ben Franklin and they were never like they are in the south.
Natalie calls it White Privilege. Where you live in a reality that your race and the consequences of your race are of little concern to you. That white people can put Barack Obama on a shirt as a monkey and not see anything wrong with it. The idea that everyone is expected to bend to their culture, language and religion and the moment that is jeopardized they’re literally on a border with guns. I’ve worked at places where people had bumper stickers that read, “If I Knew They Would Be This Much Trouble I Would Have Picked My Own Cotton.” That there are probably few places they would want to go where they would feel uncomfortable. Natasha Modavi invited me out for a Friday night with some of her friends to Charlie Horse which she assured me was not redneck. Just for the record, they is a 90% chance any bar or restaurant with the word “horse” in the name is a little too redneck for my tastes. Experience has also proven any bar with the word “pony” in the name is probably a Gay bar.
The Confederacy and the south are two different things. The Confederate Flag is worn by people the same way someone from Gainesville sports a Florida Gators shirt or bumper stickers and can’t name a single person on the team. It’s being used as a symbol to say this is where I am from like Puerto Ricans have their flag in their car and every Italian restaurant is decked out in red, white and green.
People do things and aren’t sure why they do them whether that is wearing a flag you don’t understand or wearing your pants cinched below your ass. But in the words of Stephen Colbert, the Confederate Flag says The South like a Swastika says Oktoberfest.
Just don’t look at me like I’m the asshole.