Tuesday, July 07, 2015

On the creepy confederate flag

Way back when I was in graduate school, I was once talking about the road trip I wanted to go on in the Deep South, thanks to having read Gone with the Wind when I was in high school.  The three guys listened to my plan.  One of them--btw, all the three were Whites, born and raised in the US--said something like "even I would not want to get off the freeways there" which puzzled me.  He saw my puzzled expression and clarified--he was Jewish.

There is heritage and then there is heritage that comes with a mile-long freight train full of baggage.  The worry is that not only the baggage of the confederacy has not been completely thrown out but that it is even cherished!  As the NY Times noted in its editorial, "the Civil War is winding down":
to put away old business — the Civil War, Reconstruction, jut-jawed defiance to equality for black citizens — so their state could finally take up the ever-pressing, unfinished job of reconciliation.
Earlier this spring, the friend and I went to the coast.  On our way back, we decided to detour via a road that we normally do not take.  It was pretty, of course.  Not much of a traffic, other than a pickup truck that was behind me and was in a hurry.  No surprise for me when the vehicles behind want to pass me, because I am always the slow guy on the road!  When I got a break, I moved over to the sandy shoulder space to let the pickup overtake me and it did.

A couple more miles in, and the friend and I decided to pull over, figure out where exactly we were and to then proceed.  As I reached a clearing, where I thought I would stop, I passed the same pickup truck that was parked there.  Strange it seemed that the driver was in a hurry and yet was parked there.

We checked the map and figured that we had taken a wrong turn, which meant that I had to make a u-turn at that point.  I started the engine and crawled forward to find a sweet spot to make the u-turn.  The pickup truck also headed out slowly.  We thought it was creepy.  I made the u-turn and passed the pickup, and we never saw that truck again.

A few miles later, we passed a relatively rundown house with a huge confederate flag that was fluttering with the breeze.  After that pickup truck experience, the sight of the confederate flag worried me.  A dark-skinned me, and with a white woman too!  I visibly shifted into a worried mode.

If a dark-skinned me feels this way here in Oregon, far away from the Confederate states, then I cannot even begin to imagine how African-Americans feel about that flag and the "heritage" it represents.

I will leave it to my favorite go-to intellectual on race issues in the US; Ta-Nehisi Coates writes about the confederate flag:
Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.

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