I understand that, for many people, the Confederate flag does not symbolize hatred. I have friends who are kind, accepting people who look beyond the color of one’s skin and see only the texture of a person’s soul. And these people have ancestors who hearken back to the Civil War, specifically the South. And these friends own and, at times, wear or identify with the Confederate flag. Not because they are racists. Not because they believe in slavery. They do not condone or endorse human-trafficking or atrocities committed against humanity. But they do not hide their heads in shame because they had family members who fought for the South.
Basically, just because they own the Confederate flag does not make them racist.
Now, having given this long and lengthy disclaimer and while my belly is tying itself into neurotic knots, I am finally going to write what I want to write about.
Yesterday, I saw a powerfully disturbing video. A collection of people deliberately drove into a predominantly African-American neighborhood. Not a problem. But they were deliberately driving through this neighborhood while flying the Confederate flag.
This is why people do associate the Confederate flag not with a section of American history but with racism. Because, the African-Americans who were standing on the sidewalks in the neighborhood where they were living were clearly distressed and angered that people would deliberately come to their homes and drive past them, flying the flags that, in this instance, was flown as a symbol of inequality.
If people do a little scratching (my euphemism for research), people will see that the Confederate flag that was flown over the South Carolina capital was raised fifty years ago. Hmmm….what was happening fifty years ago?
Oh, right! The Civil Rights Movement!
So the flag was not raised as a way to say….Hey, history happened here! Let’s talk about this history and remember what happened because the whole point of learning about history is so that we can see the mistakes that were committed by our ancestors and not do the same actions.
This flag was raised as a protest against granting humanity who happened to have more melanin that other people the ability to vote.
Because in some backwards frame of thought, melanin count was the way to determine voter eligibility.
Okay…I’m not going to rant here. I’m not going to rant here. Because this post is about defeating hatred. Not invoking fury and animosity which is the pre-cursor to hatred.
So, here’s what happened in the video:
Confederate flag bearing individuals drive thorough a predominantly African-American community. The African-American individuals who were standing on the sidewalks in their neighborhood were–understandably–upset that this was occurring.
One person on the sidewalk threw a water bottle at the vehicles that were passing by while flying the Confederate flag.
Frankly, I understand how the water-bottle-person felt. It was insulting. And the insult was deliberate and malicious and cruel.
If the video was not upsetting enough, the comments below the video were worse. Because one person wrote about how the “apes” were no longer throwing s*** but were now throwing water bottles. And another person wrote about how he wanted to “wrap his hands” and go for a drive.
This was no longer people writing about “Freedom of Expression.” This was about people deliberately wanting to taunt others in order to create violence. This was no longer about people with different perspectives having a discussion in order to understand each person’s value system or morality or culture.
This was hatred.
I learned about racism through textbooks. I learned about discrimination when I saw the pictures of “medical experimentation” being performed on inmates when I was in a building in Dachau. I saw the legacy of hatred when I stood over the graves of the leaders of Die Weisse Rose, a newsletter that published the truth during WWII. These leaders were eventually caught and be-headed….because they told the truth to the deceived German citizens. I saw hatred when my gentle and loving parents stopped repairing their car after the third round of vandalism…they were targeted because they were Americans. I learned about racism from a man, Ken, who lived in Florida. He told me his story of traveling across the United States of America but being refused service in restaurants. Because he is African-American. But he was traveling in his military uniform after he had returned from his tour in Korea. He had served with honor and dignity. But was treated with indignity and hatred.
Because of his melanin count.
I have sat with women who told me about how they refuse to sit in the back of the bus because, fifty years ago, they were forced to sit there.
Because of their melanin count.
I have students who tell me stories about being afraid to leave their homes because, when they step outside and possibly enter a business establishment, they know they will be treated with suspicious.
Because of their melanin count.
I thought this part of history was over.
I thought this element of society no longer plagued this country.
Why? Why must people want to taunt others in order to cause a fury-laden response so that the taunters will feel entitled to throw punches and hurt others? Why? Why? Why?
I will choose to live differently. I will choose to live not with tolerance but with acceptance. I have chosen to raise my children so that they see skin color as nothing more than a difference in melanin count and not a defining characteristic of a person’s worth.
My legacy will not be a legacy of disliking others for petty reasons. I will admit, I dislike some people for various reasons. I am still a bit bitter at those who hurt me years ago and even those who have said or done things which I found distasteful. I am not walking on water. I am not turning water into wine.
I don’t even like wine. I think it tastes like cough syrup.
I don’t know what I am to do in this new stage of what feels like the newest Civil Rights movement. I’m not certain how to define what is occurring in these days that I thought were done and over as we lived in a beautiful era of peace and compassion.
I am not certain exactly what my next actions will be.
I will not throw punches.
I will not throw water bottles.
I will not throw insults.
I will wrap wounds with bandages.
I will hold the hands of those who are hurt.
I will stand.
I will stand and I will offer an open hand to those who are hurting.
I will hurt with them.
I will speak for them and with them and on their behalf.
I will tell their stories.
I will teach.
I will listen.
I will learn.
I will combat hatred through peace and goodwill and compassion.
Because fighting hatred should not be done through violence.
I offer my palms, not my fist.
I offer my open hand, not my middle finger.
I offer prayers and offerings of hope, not words of cruelty and hatred.