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.


Ramesh said...

A very American issue. I'll leave you guys and gals to worry about that - the world has other pressing issues occupying its mind :)

Sriram Khé said...

Other pressing issues like the Baseball All Stars game? or Modi in Central Asia? or Kim Kardhashian pregnant? Or ... muahahaha ;)

Anne in Salem said...

I am undecided on this issue, probably because it has never affected me personally. I have never lived in the South nor have I lived in a city with a large Black population.

Germany banned the Nazi flag. I imagine some people would relate the two flags in their representations of evil and inhumanity. Yet it is part of our country's past. Should we hide it away forever? How will people learn about it if it is so hidden? Is there a theory that the more something is forbidden, the more power it gains?

Sriram Khé said...

When Ramesh commented that the world has other pressing issues, I let him off with silly humor.
But, when Anne writes "it has never affected me personally," ahem, I need to draw both Anne and Ramesh into the conversation.

Most of the stuff that I blog about here doesn't affect me personally. Grexit? Not my hassle because it doesn't affect me personally. The Armenian Genocide? Heck, my grandmothers had barely been born by then and I was not personally affected at all. You get my point.
Methinks that you two are ducking out of a critical conversation.

Imagine having a conversation on whether the Confederate Flag is as evil as the Nazi one!

Most read this past month