I’m not the type of person you’ll find at a protest. You’ll be hard pressed to find me at a rally of any sort. I went to the 2014 Pride Parade in Washington D.C. last summer because my roommates went…but I never would have thought to go on my own.
It’s not that I don’t care about Black Lives or LGBTQ issues or the environment, what have you.
It’s not that I don’t believe we should strive for a better planet, a better human race.
It’s not any of that.
I’m considering a career in genocide education for heavens sakes. I care a lot.
I’m just very reserved. I don’t like to draw attention to myself in public places like a protest or a rally. I abhor arguing unless it’s with someone I’m very close to and trust. I’m pretty non-confrontational and generally speaking, would much rather express my urgency for a better world, a better human race through writing or a small group or one on one conversation. Humanity frustrates me a lot. For all the beauty and grace and good there is out there, there is also a lot to be concerned about. Humanity scares me. Humanity makes me wonder how much we as a collective really value this life at all.
But I would feel no satisfaction in marching in a protest, holding a sign up at a rally. In fact, I’d feel unnecessarily in the spot light. And I’d want to go and hide.
So, when I saw the first Confederate flag waving proudly(?) in the front lawn of a private family home in a small Midwestern town, I said nothing. I later texted a friend my disgust, but in the moment, I said nothing.
When I saw the second Confederate flag waving across town on the lawn of a different private family home, I again said nothing. I texted two friends this time as my distress over the two respective flags was raising an urgency inside of me.
I said nothing, but my insides were seething.
I knew I had to write about it. A blog post began to formulate in my head. So here you go.
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I suppose some of the more outspoken people that I know would take my lack of vocalization in those moments as a problem. Perhaps they would see it as cowardly or a lack of caring. But you see, that’s not the way my mind works. I could have vocalized it…but to what avail? It still wouldn’t change the fact that the Confederate flags were there. It still wouldn’t the very real fact that for all the legislation passed by our government to ensure equality among all peoples, America is still a very racist country.
This blog post wont change any of that either. But, I like to think that the permanence of these words on the interwebs, even if they are only in my little and barely recognizable corner of the interwebs, will make a difference somehow. And that’s something an immediate and frustrated vocalization in the moment would never be able to do.
And so I write.
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The Confederate States of America was a short lived entity. From 1861 to 1865 the eleven most Southern States in the Union seceded to form their own nation. With Jefferson Davis as their president, they went to war with the nation they used to be a part of. The one thing most U.S. school children learn about the Civil War, if nothing else, is that it was a war over slavery.
And yes, in many ways it was.
While their were plenty of other factors at play–the differing economies, cultures, and ideologies of the North and the South–, while disagreements and strife had been brewing between the North and South for decades, and while the slavery issue didn’t emerge at the forefront of this strife until the 1850s–when we think of the Civil War today, we mostly think of slavery. We think of the Emancipation Proclamation. We think of the pro-South and pro-slavery John Wilkes Booth assassinating Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre. We think of men of all ages leaving their Midwestern and Northeastern towns in order to preserve the Union…a Union without massive Southern plantations and a large work force of slaves.
And thus, because in our American consciousness the Civil War is the war over slavery, the Confederate flag, in the past 150 years, has become a symbol. Economics and culture and ideology, aside, the Confederate Flag has become a racist symbol, a symbol that states that the South and its plantation system and its dependence on slavery–that it was all okay. That Black people are still inferior. That anyone who isn’t a White Anglo Saxon Protestant is still inferior, for that matter.
Since the Civil War, we have made strides. For instance, Brown v. Board, The Montgomery Bus Boycotts, the Freedom Riders, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” were all occurrences in the 1950s and 60s that made the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century so powerful. I mean, lets be real here–the leaders of the Confederacy and those hoity toity plantation owners would probably turn in their graves if they knew we had a black president who was elected for not just one, but two terms of office.
We live in a world where the Supreme Court ruled the U.S. as one of the few countries in the world to legalize gay marriage…
…And yet there are still people out there touting their Confederate flags.
It just doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. It concerns me and it scares me because I see the Confederate flag and, in my eyes, it’s just as offensive as a swastika…and yet, in 2015, people are still raising them proudly…
…And I’m realizing that no matter what the government says, no matter what is or isn’t legal, no matter that segregated public bathrooms and park benches are a thing of the past–no matter that Plessy v. Ferguson and separate but equal are no longer void according to the government–no matter any of that because racism still exists and it is very present, perhaps not everywhere, but in some pockets of the United States and that’s a problem because it doesn’t take much for hatred to spread and I fear it’s spreading.
And at what cost?
Who benefits from this?
What kind of world do we live in that there are still people out there who consider these symbols of hatred to be okay?