I woke up this morning to news of an iconic symbol making its way back into the faces of Georgians. A symbol usually reserved for trailer parks, pit stained T-shirts, beat up pickup trucks and up until recently state capitol buildings. The group, Sons of Confederate Veterans, just received approval to have the controversial Confederate battle flag placed on Georgia specialty tags. This, of course, has caused some uproar with civil rights activists; however the obverse continue with the tired old saying, "It's heritage, not hate." There is something about that saying that just makes me cringe. Maybe some have forgotten about the history of hate that flag represents, essentially more bad than good. I am often curious how much weight that argument actually holds and actually how many really believe that.
As a child I have lomography memory of driving through a military base neighborhood in Savannah, Ga. Each residence was a mirror of the other and not just because of its construction, but nearly every home was adorned with a flying flag. Take a guess which flag was not flying? That's right the ole "Southern Cross." The same flag that was referred to in a newspaper as a flag that embodied "The destiny of the southern master and his African slave," the "White man's flag," as it went on to say.
I find it interesting that after Georgia's fall after the Civil War the use of the Confederate flag had disappeared until 1956. The state flag was changed and adopted the Confederate battle flag element. The reason given is that it was in preparation of the Civil War centennial. Maybe it was a sly gesture given the fact that Brown vs. Board of Education was just two years prior to this change. Was this racist Georgian politics showing their opposition to the supreme court case? I believe so.
Where the argument really falls apart really could not be any more well timed. A story out of Mississippi on the tail end of the Georgia tag story really shows the underlying truth to what this symbol means. On the campus of Ole Miss University is a statue of James Meredith, the first black student to attend there. To earn a statue on any campus means that you have must do something extraordinary and Meredith did just that. Imagine your first day of school, as you went to enter the building you were greeted by the governor of the state along with a throng of students, some of which are holding a Confederate flag, all in opposition of you being there. The amount of pressure and racial bigotry would conquer most people within that very moment. James Meredith, he withstood it for four years and obtained a degree. Mr. Meredith's statue was disgraced by someone placing a noose around the neck and attaching a Confederate flag to it. Is this a message of heritage? Or of hate?
If you still can't decide let me throw this at you. I have been thinking of opening a store in Borough Park (a section of New York with a large Jewish population). As for advertising I have been thinking about putting the name of my store along with a Swastika symbol. As you read that last sentence you came across the word "Swastika," I have a pretty good idea of the negative imagery that popped into your head. Okay, now imagine the fruitless argument I would have on my hands as I tried to explain to that Jewish community, "No, no, no, I mean it in a good way. I mean it in the sense that it means, good luck." There is no doubt my claims would be dismissed instantly as that symbol will always have a meaning of hate. When African-Americans see that Confederate flag flying or posted it means no less than symbol that represents a heritage of hate.
My Georgia friends, rethink this one.