Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That Flag

When moving to South Carolina for work, I spent a day driving around with the girl I was replacing. She was a cute young blonde whose pride in her hometown could not be contained. She liked to talk.

She showed me the main street, the church she wanted to marry her “southern gentleman” boyfriend in, plantation homes, and all the places where the “young professionals ate and socialized. She told me how people here took southern hospitality serious and I was sure to be welcomed.

In the process of my tour she remarked how she was born in the wrong century. “Wouldn’t it have been great to live in the old south? I mean, I think I was meant to go to balls, relax with family and friends on the porch while drinking mint juleps. Wouldn’t those days have been great?” she asked wistfully.
“Sure, unless you were a black person,” was my response.

She was visibly taken aback and looked confused. “Well I guess… I wasn’t talking about that. I mean, I was just saying the values and genteel lifestyle ya know?”
“You do realize that lifestyle was only possible because of slavery right?” I asked.

She hemmed and hawed and moved on to other subjects. I’m sure she thought me rude and confrontational. I’m glad this girl was not required to report to my superior about how the day went.

I don’t think this girl was a racist but I do think she is representational.

Racism has moved from an open, rationalized, hatred or possibly dislike, into a simple glossing over of all things racial. The desires this girl had for times past ignored the very existence of race. I have seen this as a pattern in mainstream/white American society where most never think of the minority and bristle when they are pointed out. It is as if pointing out an issue becomes the issue.

I have argued with many over whether or not the confederate battle flag is a racist symbol.

Many claim it is simply an honoring of those who went before. A symbol of those brave enough to fight for what they felt was right, to fight against Northern or Federal oppression aimed at destroying another’s way of life. It is a symbol hearkening back to better times when courtesy and manners ruled, when a Southerner could be proud.
That has nothing to do with race.

Unless you are black.

That is the racism of it.
To ignore a group of people that have always been there is ignorant. To ignore a group of people who were beaten, raped, and killed under that flag, by the very ancestors “that flag” glorifies, is both the seeds and the fruit of racism.

But then again, I’m sure they weren’t really talking about “that”.


Mr. Noface said...

I'm glad you said what you said to her. Sometimes you have to put it in their faces like that. Push them out of their comfort zones and make them think (hopefully) about the others (non-white people). I'm all for ease and comfort, but not all the time. Sometimes being uncomfortable is good, because you learn about yourself and you might even notice others (non-white people).

[Emeritus] said...

well said.

SOILA. said...

I hate it when people put me in the uncomfortable positions of having to challenge their views especially when those views involve the possible dehumanizing of a group of people.

You handled the girls ideas/remarks well. Were you uncomfortable having to point out what one would presume "obvious" to her?

uglyblackjohn said...

How did they act when they met your wife? (Or was this incedent pre-wifey?)

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate how much you understand race relations Brohammas. I really do. I think alot of people just don't care black or white.


Corbie said...

While they all are lovely, thus far, that's my favorite of your paintings. Nice job.

brohammas said...

Soila, I was not uncomfortable. I have spent enough time talking about uncomfortable things that I'm used to it. The only time I was nervous was confronting a VERY large ex pro rugby playing South African who dropped a racist comment right after ripping a phone book in half with his bare hands... Surprisingly he backtracked in stead of killing me.

UBJ, this girl never met my wife as she was moving to a new area the next day. My wife and I do get a kick out of meeting work people for the first time. We walk in to restaurants, I wave hello, and then the look of shock sets in when the random black girl who just happened to walk in at the same time sits down with us as well. No one ever assumes we are together.

Simone, thanks for the compliment. I need those. I think many people are apathetic to things outside thier realm of experience. This apathy and inexperiance combine to create missunderstanding... which leads to trouble. Thats what I think can be avoided... but usually is not.

Corbie, thanks. I find this painting somewhat underwhelming. Better in concept than in execution

brohammas said...

Mr. No Face, I agree. I love to argue, if for anything else to test my ideas, hear others, and see if my views are based in logic and practice communicating them. I've found if no one argues with me, I have drawn my social circle too tight and need to fix it.

Mr. Noface said...

That's a good measuring stick to use!

Future Mama said...

Wow, what a great post! I just read it to my husband. That's funny, how did we both just find Siditty's blog?! So funny! Well I'm glad you commented on mine and that I read this! So many people I don't think, THINK this way. You said it better than I could!

So your wife is black? I'm off to stalk your blog some more and look for family pictures... hope you've got 'em, haha!

Oh, and I wrote a post about biracial children-my worries, I'd love your take, and to hear more of your experiences. Maybe I'll read them here... Onward to read :)

Amanda said...

I know I'm late on this post, but my question is, how can we be proud of anything?

Not that the Confederate Flag is something to be proud of in my view, but don't most things have a bad past? If you say that you can't be proud of the Confederate Heritage BECAUSE it also has a dark past, that's like saying I can't be Catholic because of the Crusades, or Mormon because of Mountain Meadows. I can't be proud of the North because of working conditions during the Industrial Revolution, can't be proud of the South because of Slavery.

Do you see my question? At what point can we say, "Yeah, parts of history are awful. But parts of history are great." Sometimes those awful parts and those great parts happen simultaneously. Then what?

Again, I'm not disputing what you have to say about flying the Confederate flag. And to idolize a time in history without recognizing the horrors does not do anyone any justice.

What if she had recognized the horror of slavery when you brought it up? Would her longing for old traditions be OK? Can we appreciate the good times while being repulsed by the bad?

That's what I just can't seem to find an answer to. What do you think?

brohammas said...

Amanda, funny you ask as someone else asked me "offline" if the same applies to the American flag.
"sort of" os my response.

My issue with the confederate flag is not that the South's history is tainted but that it's foundation and root were.

The confederacy went to war over thier need to own black people as slaves. That flag is the battle flag that was flown defending that sole issue. They can coat the issues of the day with lots of sides, like "State Rights", but the state right at issue was slavery.

Catholicism was not founded in the name of killing Muslims.

Mormonism was not founded on killing Arkansas pioneers.

the North was not founded with a charter stipulating worker exploitation.

The declaration of Independence was noble in its statement of equality despite it's writers inability to live up to it, and that is the fundamental differance between all of these and the confederacy with its accompanying symbols. The States as they broke from the Union wrote and declared thier right to own black people as slaves. I don't think anyone has that right.

I will not celebrate that and will challenge those who do.

Amanda said...

Good distinction. Thanks!

Siditty said...

I don't know why pride is derived from oppression. I want a mint julep too, but only in a time where I am not treated as livestock. That is too crazy to me. Lot's of women down here have Scarlett O'Hara syndrome.

扒Elly said...

brilliant. i honestly have no words