I miss my home town. I miss the sound of cicadids on a summer evening. I miss the construction of a fine, Southern sentence. I miss running around in bare feet. I miss catching fireflies and putting them in a jar – only to release them 10 minutes later out into the humid, dark night. I miss my rose-tinted lenses of childhood or to quote James Agee:
“We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.”
This is how I like to remember the South, through some sort of idyllic filter that overlooks the racism of the past. This halsian view ignores that there was a ‘white side of town’ and a ‘black side of town’, as a result of segregation. This fantasy of the golden South denies that a fair number of white people still use the N-word on a regular basis and still make jokes about African American’s eating habits. It is much more comfortable when I think about my home to live in a fantasy world, ignoring the fact that people still plant the Confederate Flag on their front lawn and scream ‘Heritage not Hate’ when you tell them they look like a bunch of loony white racists.
It’s been 150 years; the Confederacy lost that war. That war was started in a push and pull with the Federal government over State’s rights – specifically a State’s right to own slaves. Now you can try to tell yourself as much as you want that this was not all about slavery, but the Confederacy was exactly about slavery. The secession from the Union was predominately concerned with maintaining the economic structure of the cotton growing South which depended explicitly on slavery.
Especially in light of recent events, it is time that the South took yet another deep look at itself and worked towards letting this ridiculous, ignorant attachment to the Confederacy go. It is time we admit that our racial bias still exists and start to deal with it. It is time to walk away from the past. Like it or not my fellow Southerners, the Rebel flag is entrenched as a symbol of hate. It’s time for us from the South to disown that heritage of racist, bigoted bias and slavery.
Will getting rid of a flag stop racism? Of course not, but it will be a step towards disowning that heritage of hate. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. If any flag burnin’ is gonna happen, I vote for the symbol of Johnny Reb, hands down. I vote for standing up when someone uses the N-word, I vote for calling out our Southern brothers and sisters for off hand racial comments. I think Dylann Roof’s old friend said it best, his horror in this statement is evident:
“He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.” But now, he said, it seemed that “the things he said were kind of not joking”.
It’s time to pull ourselves out of this collective denial and stop pretending that we don’t have a problem with racism, we do. It is time for us to disown that dumb flag and move into the bright light of day.
I should point out that, this post was in part inspired by sentiments are shared by Allen Clifton, who wrote a somewhat similar post (before I did) for Forward Progressives entitled: I Have A Message For Those Who Claim The Confederate Flag Represents Their Heritage.