The rebel flag is straight racist and it should be taken down. Period. I’m not going to waste time teaching you its history here. Defenders claim it’s about ‘heritage’ to them but the reality is it was intended to convey racism and it very much does. Saying it ‘doesn’t mean that to me’ is akin to arguing about your body odor with someone. If someone has the courage to tell you that you stink; to them, you do. Arguing about if you intended to smell or if you already put on deodorant is missing the point. You’re screwing up, stop it.
A deeper problem however is the preachy tone we’ve all so quickly adopted in this argument. Let’s be clear; the South is not evil, and the North is still hella-racist too. The ‘square-states’ are not just full of fat morons, and the coasts aren’t just filled with socialist tree huggers. Each individual person in this country has a menagerie of influences and voices in their head trying to reconcile what is and what should be, and none of us get it right all the time.
For the first half of our country’s history, the South was the important part. Looking back at colonial times, you’d move to the North because of your nutty religious beliefs. You’d move to the South to make money off this country’s resources. When France got involved to help finance the revolutionary war, it was through connections in the South -not the North. Even as the west opened with trappers sending furs to Europe for top hats, that went through St. Louis, not Cleveland. For a long time the South was the cultural and financial center of our country, and the North was the back woods scary place that was filled with religious nut cases. Oh, how the tables have turned.
So along comes the civil war and the industrial revolution. The North starts producing more money and the South needs federal aid. The North abolishes slavery and the South invents Jim Crow. The last 150 years have seen amazing developments first in the industrial North and then in the technology/services coasts, but not much positive in the South at all.
That sucks. The South is filled with regular ol’ people, and it’s good for people to have pride in themselves and where they come from. There’s people of all colors in the South, don’t they all deserve a chance to be proud of where they come from, today? Coming from the South one might be understandably proud of your land, farming, fishing, musical ability, religious dedication, community service, or ability to make a damn fine bourbon. You still might be 100% for equal rights for people of all colors, sexual orientation or gender identities. Is there any way you could express your love of where you come from without the subtext of slavery? Is that fair to people of color who love their home, in the south? More importantly, is that fair to people from the North who have no such footnote added to statements of their pride but are often just as racist behind closed doors?
I know I’m proud to have chosen the pacific northwest as a home. I don’t feel the need to fly the Cascadia flag. If I did, I wouldn’t be trying to convey the incredibly racist history of Oregon with it, but rather an appreciation for the outdoors, fine food, and a balanced life/work philosophy that people associate with urban Oregon and Washington. When I get on the phone with someone half way around the world and they learn I’m from Portland, my assumption is “whites only!” doesn’t jump in their mind even though Oregon was actually founded as a racial utopia and it was only made legal for black people to move to the state in 1926.
Is it possible for people from the South to have “Southern Pride” without that conjuring racist overtones?
Should it be?
While reasonable minds agree that this flag needs to go, does the emphasis on this miss a larger opportunity to address the systemic racism that permeates our country as a whole (North and South) today, still? Or is this part of slowly trying to correct course…