Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Flag I Knew but Never Thought About.

I’m a product of the South. I grew up a southern white boy in the 50’s.  I went to all white schools and lived in all white neighborhoods.  I had all white friends and dated all white girls.  I read books about the civil war exploits of confederate soldiers.  I watched movies dramatizing the antebellum south. I watched TV shows like “The Gray Ghost” glorifying the exploits of John Singleton Mosby (Mosby’s Raiders).  I listened to my grandmother talking about her father, my great grandfather, who fought under Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville.  Yes, I’m a true “son of the confederacy”.  To me the Confederate flag was a sign of a proud heritage and second only to the American flag.   The problem was I never thought about the other side of the meaning of that flag.  

We in the south, and when I say that, I mean we white people in the south grew up glorifying the confederacy. We lived, we breathed it, it was just part of us.  I never thought about the real meaning of the flag and the reasons for the Civil War.  True, I studied it in school, but I studied it in a southern school with a southern curriculum.  It was just as much "The War for States Rights" or more strikingly the "War for Southern Independence" as it was the Civil War.  We studied more about Bull Run then The Battle of Appomattox and Sherman's March to the Sea was a horrendous uncalled for excessively brutal treatment of the South.  I learned about slavery but what I learned about slavery was that most slave owners treated their property humanely and that most white families cherished the relations they had with their black families and there were only a few owners who treated them cruelly.  I'm sorry this is what we were taught.  

I am now an old man in the twilight of my years.  I look back upon my childhood and see that I sure missed a lot in those days.  There was a whole other world out there of people that were on the other side.  Sons and daughters of sons and daughters of the slaves that were that property.  What our white view was not what their black view was.  Where I looked at that flag and saw pride, they grew up looking at that flag and saw fear.  What I experienced growing up was institutionalized racism, what's being called today systemic racism, and I was ground into it.  That's the problem today.  So many of us grew up the way I have described and never even knew it.   

There was a lot of things we didn't know.  We didn't know how it felt to be relegated to the balcony of the Carolina Theatre and have to enter through the rear door.  We didn't know how it felt to be sent to the back of the city bus or have to drink out of the colored only water fountain in the Kress store or not be served at the lunch counter or not be allowed to use the public toilet unless there was a "colored" one available.  Yes, I lived those days but didn't experience them.  Over the years I have often said that had I experienced them I probably wouldn't be here today.  True, black men my age have had to endure a lot more than I have and are probably more scarce then my kind. 

So I am not surprised at all about the feelings and emotion that erupting today in the Black community and the awareness that seems to be coming about in many of us in the white community.  It is long overdue.  We thought that when Obama was elected we had transgressed into a new era.  Oh how wrong we were.  His election did bring out a degree of pride and personal worth to the black community but it brought a lot of anger, animosity and fear in the white community, but suppressed until the advent of Trump.   

The election of Donald Trump, with his say it like it is type of personality and his bully mentality allowed white people with racial tendencies to just let it rip.  So it's no wonder that after nearly 4 years the country is like a powder keg.  Lets hope there is enough young people with sense who haven't grown up like I did that can make this country whole again and fix a problem that has been festering for 150 years.  

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