I hate that gotdamn flag. I always have. I'm a Southerner, which means that I'm super familiar with it. Not only that, I did my high schoolin' in the great state of Alabama in the mid-90s. This means that there were high school year book quotes from Confederate generals and shouts of "The South Shall Rise Again." Seeing a confederate flag on the car or tshirt of a classmate wasn't exactly a big deal. Or news.
It just was.
I hate that gotdamn flag. So much so, that in my own means of protest against it while in college back in the late 90s, I went to a tshirt shop in Huntsville, Alabama's, Madison Square Mall, and had them create for me a confederate flag tshirt in black and white. I also got a confederate flag belt buckle - which I still have today - and would walk around wearing both together…in Alabama…WAITING for somebody to say something about it, which nobody ever did. It wasn't much of a protest, but it was mine. Oh, and while wearing this getup, I would rock a Muslim prayer shawl as a headwrap. Yeah, I was doing a lot. But it never felt like enough. I also enjoyed rocking my Black Panther shirts back then in white areas. I was ALWAYS disappointed that nobody challenged me on any of it.
Anybody who tells you that the flag represens "states rights" isn't lying. I mean, it's true. It does represent states rights…to have slaves. It's a sign and a symbol infused with so much negativity its impossible for anybody to legitimately say, with a straight face, that it doesn't have any true racist connotation. The ENTIRE reason motherfuckers display that flag is to harken back to a time when the South was run by good whites and Black folks had the privilege of subservience. Period. Anybody who says different can eat a dick. Shit, I remember once in Washington, DC, while walking with a high school classmate of mine on the National Mall, we saw a guy who had on a tshirt that said, "If I Knew It Would Be Like This, I'd Have Picked My Own Damn Cotton" and of course it had a confederate flag on it. She was appalled. I found it hilarious that this white guy would wear that shirt in what was at the time one of the Blackest cities in America. Big cajones on that guy. But the flag was on that shirt for a reason; a motherfucking OBVIOUS reason. Shit, ask Dylann Roof who took pictures of himself with the flag as a symbol of racism then went out and tried to start a race war. Blatantly.
Even as a youth it was a hard concept to deal with. But I lived in Alabama and Georgia (though anybody who has ever lived in Atlanta will tell you that there's Atlanta, and then there's Georgia) so I had to suck it up. People that I truly considered friends would come to school with shirts that had that flag on it somewhere, and we'd eat lunch and shoot the shit together. But that fuckin' flag was there as a constant reminder that you've come only so far. Even if my friends truly believed in that states rights bullshit (some of which they tried to teach us in Alabama History in 9th grade) and didn't mean it to offend me there's no way to get around that its use has now and will always be tied to white supremacists insistence on reminding Black folks to stay in line.
Which is exactly what the fuckin' flag flying over the South Carolina capitol grounds (and in the Mississippi state flag, amongst others) states clearly and loudly. Even in our progress, our heritage is one steeped in racism. It is a constant reminder to every Black person in the state of South Carolina that progress comes with stipulations. No person who views Black and whites as equals would ever think its okay to display that flag PROMINENTLY as part of the representation of the state. I realize that the SC governing body came to a compromise placing the flag and a civil rights memorial just off of the capitol building. I get it. But not a single Black person who accepted that compromise liked it. Sometimes you just realize you have to win the battles you can win. Removing it from the capitol building back then was a win…then you just keep up the good fight.
This is also why I'm SO glad to hear so many local and national political figures advocating for the removal of the flag from the SC capitol grounds. From Gov. Nikki Haley (who has done some flip flopping) to Sen. Lindsay Graham, its important that these individuals speak up. Even Wal-Mart has decided to stop selling items with confederate flag on it. You know you're on the wrong side of history when Wal-Mart is more progressive than you. That, my friends, is what we call the winds of change.
Of course, they're going to find some significant resistance from their constituencies who are likely to dig their heels in deeper at what will be seen as defiance and erasure of their proud SC heritage and history. This is no shots to the smart folks of South Carolina, but any person who has faithfully divorced the flag from slavery, intimidation, and white supremacy and SOLELY made it about states rights is a fucking idiot. Pure and simple. I don't care what it represents to some people of SC. To the vast majority of Americans, it is a sign of hatred. It's akin to the fuckin' swastika. Whatever its original intention was has been lost and now its used as a means of projecting hatred and inequality. How that type of shit gets country on a state flag or flown to represent a state is beyond me, but hey, I'm a Southerner, and backwards shit is kind of how we like to do things from time to time.
Not that the South hasn't made significant progress; it has. From my parents youth to now, it's an entirely different world. It's one reason why I always appreciate hearing Rep. John Lewis speak about the fact that folks who say progress hasn't happened need only to walk in his shoes. Progress has occurred, and it's inflammatory and unfair to say otherwise. But not-so-subtle shit like the confederate flag is one of those things that remains that even if it actively isn't offending people, its constant presence used in state politics reminds you of how far you have yet to go. Why else would it be so divisive?
Race isn't easy for a lot of people. Letting go of negative history is even harder, especially, sad to say, for a lot of folks in the deep South, which is a place that I love. I love the South. I love the friendliness of Southerners, white or Black. I love the Southern sky and air. The heritage and history though? That's hard.
I remember during college when some of my boys from up North came with me to Alabama for a weekend. And we drove past some cotton fields. For one of them, it was his first time ever seeing one. For the others of us, who are from the South, it was business as usual. Seeing those cotton fields is an important reminder of what life used to be like. And I love that I can't forget that history because it matters so much for American society. I can live with that, because we have made progress. That's change I can believe in.
The confederate flag is a historical relic. As has been stated, it does belong in a museum. It is absolutely part of the fabric of American society. It is part of our collective and shared history. It matters now because it mattered then. And I love that so many people are advocating for this realization. That's all it takes to change the tide.
And just because fairness, it still flies on the Alabama state grounds as well (emphasis mine):
The flag continues to stir strong emotions. Gary Carlyle, the commander of the Alabama Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Monday slavery was "a terrible part of life in those days, and we must recognize that." But he said he did not see the flag as a symbol of racism.
Racism bad. Flag used as part of racist history? Good?
Fuck your confederate flag, cuh!