A couple years ago, I had some students that wanted to depict the Confederate flag on their scratch art projects. I told them I would not allow it because it is a racist symbol. They argued with me about that issue and did not believe me. I said, “Let me see, how about I put racist symbols on Google images and see what happens?” I did that and of course many images came up but the Confederate flag was smack dab in the middle of all that hate. My students told me that just because it is on the Internet doesn’t make it true. These are middle school boys growing up in southern Michigan with the mentality that there is nothing wrong with that flag. I periodically have students that have challenged me on this issue, swastikas, and the KKK. Sometimes they are testing me to see what I will accept and sometimes they are just so used to being around these symbols and seeing them that they just don’t know any better.
I know there has been more of this these past few years and it is related to the Tea Party movement and, of course, to the fact that we now have a black president. Over the years, the more that I see of President Obama, the more I realize how much hatred there is in our country. This is more than a Republican or Democratic issue. Those Republicans that refuse to work with President Obama have refused from day one. They don’t hate him because he is a Democrat; they hate him because he is a black Democrat. I have always found President Obama to be a tad more Republican in his stances than that of a progressive Democrat. I could not understand why the right could be so down on him. He has done so much that they should be happy about. Getting up the “courage” to take down this racist symbol is in my mind, is a joke. As an educator, I know it is racist and so do all these powerful people. I am no more educated than most of them, but so many of them, like these young boys, do not want to face the truth.
John Oliver said it right when he talked about the Confederate flag, “The Confederate flag is one of those things that should only be seen on t-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.” I laughed when I watched his piece on this because that is exactly how I see it. Whenever I see someone with that flag, I think I know what they are about and I choose to avoid them. It does however; make it easier for them to find each other in a crowd, if they are looking for like-minded people. Now that it is out in the open and everyone knows it is a racist symbol, one would think that people would want to get on with the healing and remove it from any part of their lives. If I were wearing something that I discovered was racist, rest assured, I wouldn’t want to wear that thing again. For me, the Civil War was a part of history and should be treated as such.
What does our country stand for? We go into other countries trying to democratize them. We say we stand for all that is good and right in the world and for freedom of speech. At home, we have allowed hate groups to spread their hate. Whether it is the KKK, Neo-Nazi groups, or the American Family Association, hate groups teach hate. They start when people are very young children to indoctrinate them with their personal form of hate. These peoples’ rights are protected and often by groups like the ACLU. I don’t know what we can do to stop all of this hate, but I do know that children are not born hating anyone. Hatred is a learned behavior. We believe in free speech so these people are still going to be allowed to spread their own form of hatred but it should be clear that anything that breeds that hatred should not be accepted on government property, whether it be federal lands or state owned, or allowed within government programs. We, as a country, must be leaders on this issue. It is clear to me that these flags and monuments to a time when we were a country with a master and slave population, need to be put in a museum. It is time that we healed as a nation and worked to support each other. Race should not be what defines us as a people. Our spirit, integrity, and character should.