12 hours ago
Monday, July 06, 2015
I Guess I'm Gonna Talk About That Flag
See, the thing is, I used to be one of those people. I had, for a long time, a giant Confederate flag on the wall of my room. And I had Confederate flag stickers on many things. I even had a Confederate flag baseball cap.
From the time I was about fifteen, until I was well old enough to know better, I too thought the Civil War was fought over States Rights. I also would argue (with anyone foolish enough to try to set me straight) about how many Southerners owned slaves, and how the North was just as bad, and what happened to Atlanta, and Reconstruction, and how that flag stood for pride in the South, and nothing else.
And the thing is, I believed all of this. I knew all this was the real history, the stone truth,
Then, one day, one of my professors -- a professor I respected, a professor I admired, a professor whose opinion counted with me -- during a conference in her office, that professor glanced at the decal of that flag I had stuck on one of my notebooks, winced, and paused, and then continued with the conference.
That was all that happened. She very politely did not call me out. She didn't ask why someone like me, someone she knew was intelligent and well-read and ought to know better had a symbol of racism and racist hate on the notebook which was filled with notes for her class. She said nothing at all.
I was made uneasy, though. Uneasy enough to start thinking about whether people who had, for years now, been arguing with me about the role of the South in that war might, well, might --
-- might be right.
It was a fracture. It was a crack in my stubborn, thick-headed certainty that I was right.
And all y'all know what they say about cracks -- they let the light in.
I started reading with more of an open mind. I started listening to other voices.
I didn't change my mind right away. But I did change my mind.
I took the flag off my wall.
So when people -- my students, my fellow Southerners -- argue with me, in their ignorance, about what that flag means, I don't hold them in contempt. I don't hate them.
I do feel sorry for them. And I hold out hope for them, that they will open their minds, that they will, one day, be willing to learn better.
It's no sin to be ignorant. But I think it is, perhaps, once the path has been shown to you, a sin to stay willfully ignorant.