Stop what you're doing and take down your confederate flags NOW.
There used to be a time when I freely chimed in on whatever controversial topic was trending on my newsfeed. I shared articles with my favorite quote copied and pasted into my status. I did this at least three times a day when something was particularly angering or abhorrent. These days, I tend to fall silent, overwhelmed by all of the other voices on my newsfeed speaking opinions that I somewhat, mostly, or completely agree with. 'Why add my voice to the mix?' is what I think silently. 'So many other people are saying part or all of what I'm thinking, why contribute? Why make more noise?" I try to listen. I try to take in opinions and discern what I'm hearing. I try not to jump, not to inflict my instilled perspective on a world so overwhelmed with them that most of us can't stop voicing where we're coming from long enough to even consider where someone else might be coming from. Sometimes I feel like we're all so convinced we are right that it's like a relationship gone sour: we're so concerned with making our points that we wouldn't dare even listen to someone else's. Just like what happens when a conversation turns into an argument, we become more interested in being right than being happy. We put our ego before our capacity to understand. We perpetuate conflict because we're not willing to take the cotton out of our ears, stick it in our mouths and listen. We can't hold space. And just like every fight I've ever gotten into with another human being, I can never, never ever ever, find any kind of resolution if I'm not willing to put my ego aside and surrender my need to be "right" with my need for peace and understanding.
But after listening, after deciding to "take in information" from another person and resist being combative in the interest of peace and fairness, we still need to speak our truths. We still need to open our mouths and say how we're feeling. For me, after staying silent in the midst of the Charleston shooting all day yesterday, that time came this morning when I saw this status update on Marianne Williamson's Facebook page:
'YES, yes.' I thought to myself. I immediately reflected with immense anger on my understanding of the confederate flag and its meaning. I reached a whole new level of horrification that we allow this flag to be flown anywhere between the Atlantic and Pacific. How dare we?
I recalled being raised on the east coast until I was 13, before I moved to Texas. I was taught about slavery as the gravest crime our country has ever committed. I saw photos of the Confederate flag only in my textbooks as a shameful symbol of our past, a symbol that ought never be resurrected again. I had Black classmates and they were my equals, my peers. Segregation felt like centuries ago, and any type of racial slur was something I only saw in movies, something I thought was meant only to produce some kind of shock value.
I know now that this "shock value" was only a reflection of the racist reality that occurs so many times a day (rather, second) in this country of ours. It occurs in New York and New Jersey (where I grew up), and much more openly when you're south of the Mason-Dixon line. I remember seeing my first Confederate flag when I moved to Texas, and as I recall I audibly gasped. I wanted to tear it down, I wanted to cry, I did not understand. Then, when I commented on the atrocity I perceived, I was told some version of this:
"Oh, the confederate flag is just a way of being proud of Southern history! It was a lot more that slavery, you know."
NO. I DO NOT KNOW.
Certainly, Southern Tradition embodies many things we carry into our current day-to-day lives. These traditions are the babies that ought not be thrown out with the bath water. This I understand. But that flag? That flag is the bath water. That flag needs to be thrown out right now. That flag was waving "proudly" in Charleston when 9 Black men and women were shot by a White terrorist who somewhere inside of him believed that his racism was supported by THAT flag. That flag had no place in our world at any point in time. To think that flag has ANY place in our world TODAY is an astounding display of irreverence.
My husband and I were just on a road trip through Germany not even a week ago. Germany is the place where six million jews were killed less than a century ago. Six million. The symbol of the Nazis, the Swastika, is a symbol that still makes me shudder. It will make my God-willing grandchildren shudder. It is a symbol of hate. And guess what? I never saw that symbol once when I was in Germany. Why? Because bearing that symbol ANYWHERE is illegal in Germany. It is not allowed. Instead, Stars of David are everywhere on the streets marking homes where Jews were taken out of hiding and sent to concentration camps. A holocaust memorial spreads over the center of Berlin. Museums have been resurrected to honor the lives lost by the Germans who were once under the Nazis who took them. Anti-semitism still exists, we all know this, but no one in Germany is waving a flag to remind us. No one.
And could I even imagine if that flag, that symbol, were allowed? No. I would scream. I would cry. I would protest. I would be terrified. And I would never have been able to visit Germany. Yet, somehow we expect countless Black Americans to exist in states where a blatant symbol of their own persecution under slavery is waving buoyantly right beside the American Flag. In Germany, if that Nazi flag were still waving, I would not have been welcome. I would have known it by that one, terrifying mark of hatred. As Americans, we MUST stop waving most infamous symbol of racism and hatred against black people in our backyards. We MUST put an end to the most shameful event in our history by no longer perpetuating it in our children. WE ARE PERPETUATING IT IN OUR CHILDREN BY CONTINUING TO WAVE A FLAG THAT SAYS IT WAS ALL OKAY.
Stop telling me it's a "southern thing." It's not. Lilly Pulitzer? Southern Hospitality? Some of the nicest people you'll ever meet? THOSE are southern things.
Your confederate flag? That is not and will NEVER be a "southern thing." That flag, my friend, that flag is a racist thing.
Take it down.