Monday, June 29, 2015

To my Southern Friends: Are You Sure You Want to Support the Battle Flag?

For many southerners, the Battle Flag (or "Confederate flag") doesn’t mean white supremacy or racial superiority. They, like myself, grew up thinking the flag meant southern pride: pride in a simple life and family time, synonymous with cornbread and pickup trucks. The racial history of the flag wasn’t part of their dialogue growing up, and they have largely been oblivious to the history surrounding the flag and how other people view it. When they see the Battle Flag, they see it as standing up for their culture and lifestyle that is largely mocked and ridiculed by those in other parts of the country, and when they see their symbol being attacked, they feel as though their lifestyle and culture is being attacked as well, resulting in their clinging to it more intensely.

But this doesn't mean that it's not harmful.

It doesn't mean that we should accept it.

It doesn't mean that it's okay.

There are two groups of people who fly this flag today: (1) Those who are ignorant of the damage it does, and (2) those who aren't but believe that what the flag means to them is more important than what it means to others.

For the first group: We know that you don't recognize the flag as offensive, but remember this -

You don’t get to decide what other people find offensive. While you may not see the Battle Flag as meaning racial hatred, others do. In fact, the majority of Americans do. They didn’t grow up seeing the flag as representative of a southern lifestyle; they learned about the origins of the flag, how it was created with no other purpose than to symbolize racial hatred and white supremacy. For millions of black Americans facing racial hatred every day, both subtle and overt, those who fly the Battle Flag remind them that they are still considered inferior – EVEN IF you don't. So now that you know this, what are you willing to do about it?

For the second group:  
I'm going to ask you this question, and I was you to think about it before answering -

Is the flag really worth it? In a culture riddled with racial tension, is your adherence to a flag created for no other reason than to declare racial supremacy worth the new message you associate with it? You are not exempt from the messages that the flag conveys: if you wave it, knowing the history of the flag and the ideas it engenders, you are not only supporting your interpretation of the flag but also theirs. You are saying, “My culture is more important than your race.” Is that really the message you want to give? If you really have pride in southern culture – a culture that supposedly includes good manners and respectful behavior – is adherence to this flag really the best way to do it?

In other words, if you want to prove that your culture has overcome racism, is standing up for a flag that still symbolizes racism for the majority of Americans the best way to do it?