A Damnyankee on the Confederate Flag
When I first heard of the mass shooting of the nine people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, I was as shocked and appalled as anyone else. The delusional white supremacist young man who slaughtered innocent people at prayer seemed to feel threatened by the mere existence of black people. They’re taking over, doncha know.
“This is just one mass shooting too many,” I told Mr. Siduri. Not that there should be a tolerance level of mass shootings, but I think this one just broke all barriers.
And now, almost as a footnote, people are calling for various states to remove the “Confederate flag” from their state flags and from monuments. A lifelong damnyankee myself, I frankly never gave it much thought. I had the vague notion that the states haven’t had the various combinations and permutations of the Confederate flag since the Civil War simply because it wouldn’t have gone over well with Reconstruction.
So what brought the flag back? Southern pride and a tribute to fallen ancestors? I won’t argue that these played a part, but I’m not quite sure they provided the tipping point. What seems to have been key to the resurgence in usage is the pressure to desegregate beginning in the mid-20th century. The flag was adopted by the Dixiecrats, for instance.
(As it turned out, one of those anti-desegregationists, Strom Thrumond , managed to desegregate himself long enough to father an illegitimate daughter, a not-unprecedented act in the history of American race relations.)
I do not argue with the right of the individual to fly the Confederate flag on his property. It would be hard to argue that this is not a constitutionally protected right. I personally would never do it, but I would not ask my neighbor to remove his.
However, the question of states having various permutations and combinations of it in their state flags is another matter. That it represents (in part) efforts to resist desegregation is enough to have it removed. The federal government does not have—and should not have—the authority to force the states to remove them. It must be a matter of education and conscience. Without that, removing the flag means nothing, IMHO.
The days of segregation are over, of course. I mean, we have a racially-mixed president, right? That things have changed immensely cannot be denied. But still, particularly in the south, there is often an “us and them” feeling.
When my biracial niece was a teenager, her dad took her to get her hair trimmed in Arkansas where he’s from, only to be told that that particular hair salon “didn’t do ethnic hair.” The first time I heard this story, I laughed. I’m old and have a thick skin. “Did you tell her she needed how to learn to cut hair?” I asked. My niece is now in her 20s. A self-declared “angry black woman,” she is still upset about this incident (among others) and sees it as white hate. If I had been there I would had seen it as ignorance on the part of the beautician. No one calls her on that. But what it boils down to the person who cuts hair for a living doesn’t want to/doesn’t have cut the hair of black people. The best description for that: de facto segregation. And I bet this woman doesn’t see herself as “prejudiced.”
All this to say this: My condolences to the friends and family who suffered at the shooting at Charleston. I cannot imagine the sorrow they’re going through. I see it as something of a tribute to the spirit of those who are gone to remove the Confederate flags from the various state flags. I hope it happens soon.
© 2015 Denise Longrie
Image Credit » By National Photo Company (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/npc2008003547/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons