Why did the southern states reward a racist murderer by making him the most significant southern political figure since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Are southern politicians so ignorant that they don't understand that the people who commit such crimes do so to get attention? Why are they aiding and abetting his effort to steal the Confederate Flag and make it a symbol of racism? Why are they trying to cause whites to be mad at blacks and possibly hate them?
My favorite phrase by the late radio commentator Paul Harvey was
often used after a story about someone like the man who killed nine
in a Charleston, S.C., church. Harvey would end the
story with, "he'd like me to mention his name."
Southern states have done more than just mention the Charleston
killer's name. They have made him a major historical
figure by basing policy decisions on his action.
I remind readers that I am neutral about the Confederate flag
because my great grandfather was in the Union army. I have
been concerned about racism since I was in the 7th grade and read a
couple of biographies about Jackie Robinson who became one of my
There are no inherently racist symbols. Racists may
attempt to use objects or designs as racist symbols, but the symbols
can only become racist if others allow the racists to have a
monopoly on the use of a symbol.
I got a bit of cultural shock shortly after I arrived in
Vietnam. A bunch of us replacements were flying north to An
Khe from Long Binh. We landed at an air field I think was at
Nha Trang and got off the plane for a short time. Across the
road I saw some type of Vietnamese compound. Swastikas
were on top of each of the two posts at either side of the
entrance. The only difference from the Nazi symbol was that
these swastikas were resting on one of the arms like on a
base. One of the men who knew more about eastern religions
than I did told me swastikas were used as peace symbols in the
Buddhist religion. The symbol is also sacred in
Hinduism and Jainism. For the first few months I was
in Vietnam the post office where I worked was in a compound
that had what appeared to be graves with tombstones that displayed
the swastika the same way an American tombstone might have the
Generations of southerners have used the Confederate flag to
commemorate the efforts of their ancestors to defend their homes and
communities against attack in the Civil War. Then a cowardly
murderer in effect said he wanted the flag to only be used to
indicate racism. Southern political leaders then
bowed down to him and essentially said: "yes, Mr. Killer if
you say the flag stands for racism we'll let you steal the flag from
the families of southern Civil War veterans."
Southern blacks need to understand that freedom means more than just
not being the property of a plantation owner. Many southern
blacks are virtual slaves because they have allowed their fears to
enslave them. They need to recognize that they cannot truly be
free until they stop fearing ghosts from the past.
Blacks need to get over the phobia they have about the Confederate
Racism doesn't come from pieces of cloth or other symbols.
Racism develops when people feel somebody has hurt them and decide
to dislike all of those who are similar to the person or persons who
have wronged them. When I was in college I worked one
summer with a young man who hated all blacks because a black truck
driver had killed his parents in a traffic accident.
The Confederate flag is important to many white southerners because
it provides a tie to their ancestors. They can feel
important because they feel their ancestors were
Those who want to eliminate that flag are implying they hate the
Confederate flag and by implication the people who consider it
important. Some whites will respond to that hatred by
developing hatred of their flag's "enemies". Telling
those who support that flag that they are racists will cause many to
Dr. Martin Luther King's most important teaching was that you cannot
defeat hate with hate. As Marvin Gaye sang in "What's
Goin On": "Only love can conquer hate."
Southerners who want to defeat racism should embrace the
Confederate flag and those who consider it important.
The Confederate flag was not racist. Both blacks and whites
fought under that banner. As I noted in a previous post both
blacks and whites owned slaves and there were white slaves as well
as black slaves. Those plantation owners who sold the
lighter complexioned slaves were likely selling slaves who were
their sons or daughters, nieces or nephews.
We should not forget the Civil War and those who fought in it.
We should use it as a reminder of what can happen when
politicians fail to find compromises on difficult issues.