The Confederate Flag and other stuff that makes me go hmmmm.

The other day I was standing in line at my credit union. Ahead of me was a very large statured man wearing a motorcycle club jacket. He was wearing gloves and a helmet and using very colorful language with the clerk at the window, but it wasn’t because he was upset or frustrated. On the contrary, the nature of his conversation was quite friendly. He simply chose to use profanity in his everyday lexicon.
But that wasn’t what caught my eye, err ears. The back of his motorcycle club jacket had two very ornately embroidered flags, one was the American Flag and the other was the Confederate flag.
At first, my visceral reaction to these two symbols being co-mingled was one of disgust. I didn’t like it. But the longer those images were 8 feet away from me; I began to ask myself “why?” Is it not possible for a person who claims to be proud of their European, Asian, African, First Nation, Aboriginal, or Asian-Pacific Islander ancestry to also be a proud American? Of course it is. Likewise, if we are truly a nation that embraces freedom of expression, then no matter how offensive someone’s ideology may be, don’t they have an inherent right to express it (as long as it doesn’t cause any physical harm to their neighbor).
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines ethnicity as being a group associated with or belonging to a particular race or group of people who have a culture that is different from the main culture of a country. By that definition I consider a person who identifies with the Confederate Flag and all that it stands for within historical context as being part of a distinct ethnic group. Not all people identify with the ideology surrounding the history of the confederate flag. And, being a Civil War historian buff, I know the difference between the actual flag flown during the Civil War and the one that many groups identify with today. The Confederate Flag that we see today is typically the one pictured in this post. It was made popular by southern segregationist in the 50’s and 60’s who wanted to fight against the federal government’s stand that they could not discriminate against people who were non male white anglo saxons. This was NOT the same flag that was flown by the confederate army during the civil war. The ideals may be the same, but the two flags look different. Likewise the same dictionary defines patriotism as love for or devotion to one’s country.
There is no inherent problem with being proud of whom you are. Self-pride does not, in my opinion, interfere with you being a productive American. The problem arises when that pride metastasizes into misplaced nationalism of any kind.
On that day in the credit union there was only one teller working because it was close to lunchtime. The very large man said his very foul mouthed goodbyes and turned towards me to walk away. As he passed by he looked at me and said “what’s up brother,” and kept on walking. I was in shock for two reasons: 1) rarely am I at a loss for words, which I was in this instance; 2) it’s not every day that you see a Black man wearing a confederate flag on his back.


2 responses to “The Confederate Flag and other stuff that makes me go hmmmm.

  1. As someone who has grown up in Southern states, I’ve seen the Confederate flag all my life. It’s sold in stores, posted on signs, vehicles and all over. However, it’s really rare to see someone black wearing them. But I can see how one would because Southerners tend to take pride in their background.

    • Being a Civil War aficionado I have travelled to many re-enactments. There are always lots of bumper stickers in the parking lot that give varying viewpoints on the symbol. I understand the pride factor, especially if it’s an all encompassing nomenclature. Still I believe that, for it to have been raised during such a divisive time in our history, automatically it’s going to be associated with those events. It’s kinda like the swastika. To one group it means cultural pride, to the other it means something quite awful. Hopefully we can continue to have the debate. Thanks for the response.

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