The fact that the debate over the Confederate flag is so heated tells you all you need to know about the state of race relations in America.
It’s a sad, shameful thing when misguided, incompetent or otherwise lost people adopt a symbol for their own selfish purposes. One of the most famous is the Nazi’s adopting the swastika (a symbol from many faiths) for their own. The most recent comes from a racist gunman who murdered a room full of innocent people at a historic Charleston church, knowing his photos posing with the Confederate flag and the race of his victims would ignite the worst in people. He wanted to start a race war.
In a way he succeeded.
The shocking and despicable act sparked outrage (as it should) and knee jerk reactions (as usual) from politicians and candidates alike. Many link the Confederate flag and racism, and calls for its ouster are getting more strident by the day. Activists are scaling flagpoles, and demonstrations (for and against) are taking place. But before you start pulling flags down, perhaps some history might be in order. Did you realize the U.S. flag flew over a slavery supporting nation for 86 years; the Confederate flag for 4 years? The U.S. flag flew on slave ships, the Confederate flag never did. Slavery was part of the Civil War (or the War for Southern Independence) but it was by far the only reason.
Those who revere this symbol see it as a nod to their heritage, Civil War veterans and a show of regional pride. Much like some super-fans of sports teams I know.
Connecting this (or any) symbol to racism is simplistic, misguided and wholly unfair. Flying this flag does not make you a racist or KKK supporter. Just like having an African-American (or any minority) friend doesn’t mean you aren’t a bigot. It’s what is inside, in your heart that makes you who you are.
Blaming the symbol is like blaming matches for starting fires. Human action is needed.
America is evenly split over the flag debate — 42% say its okay – 42% say its a racist symbol. As you might imagine, the debate has ignited a firestorm in the south. Yet racism lives everywhere, don’t think it doesn’t. Just because you march in a demonstration or shout a slogan, just because it’s not “your” symbol, doesn’t make you any more open and accepting than the next guy.
It’s what you do that matters. Every day. When no one’s looking.
Rather than railing against a (supposedly racist) symbol, make a real change. Give an opportunity. Open your mind. Educate yourself. Do something on the real injustices, the mass jailing of young, black men, gun violence in black neighborhoods and the lack of education or opportunities for black youth.
Leave the flags alone.