Monday, July 13, 2015

Why Did South Reward Racist Killer and Encourage Racism?

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 childhood heroes.

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 letters "R.I.P."

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 flag.

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 important.  

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 become racists.

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.

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