A few years ago…
I was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a business trip. As we spent some free time around the town, I took it upon myself to walk into a Confederate Novelty store. The store was laden with Confederate Flags and other memorabilia of the Deep South. As I perused around, confident and fearless, it became clear as I delved deeper into the dark corners of the store, that the painted faces of the tiny soldiers, scowling in caricatured war grimaces, were staring at me as if I was Gulliver, traveling into a hate-filled forbidden land…Okay, so I let my imagination get to me sometimes…Anyway, I felt uneasy and wanted to go.
When I entered the store, I passed by a Black Woman; an older woman in her sixties or younger but, she was clearly my elder. I passed her by as if she was just another curious person of color that challenged the system and ran head first into the store like a “Boss”, the same way that I did. When I came from the rear of the store with my “Gettysburg” refrigerator magnets, I realized that the woman I had passed, was behind the register. Now, this caught me by huge surprise as I certainly didn’t think a Black Woman would be the caretaker of a Confederacy Store but, lo and behold she was.
At first, I was a bit uneasy to ask why she worked there, but I built up the nerve to ask, “Do you feel comfortable around all these Confederate flags, knowing the history of them?” I asked. She said, “Yes! This is my store and it’s my history too. I was born and raised here; my Mother and Father were raised and died here. This is just as much a part of my history as it is theirs. I’m very comfortable with it.”
Being from the North, where the Racism is disguised as Liberalism and Gentrification jogs by your house at six every morning, I was surprised at the tolerance it must take to deal with the energy behind the symbolism and how it wasn’t enough to deter her from accepting her place as a part of it.
I realize that it’s a proud symbol of southern heritage; while some see it as a painful reminder of slavery and segregation. The “Southern Cross” is just an emblem, a token of ideas, materialized in the same Red, White & Blue that graces Old Glory. People are so upset because the Ku Klux Klan and White Hate groups use the flag as their symbol of power and separatism, while others see it as a bold reminder of who they are and where they come from.
I was very grateful and honored to meet someone who was proud of who she was and proud of where she lived. We can’t be honest with ourselves and say that the United States of America has been kind to African Americans and we can’t say that it would have been better under the Confederate States either. What we can say is that we are the products of history: North vs. South, Freedom vs. Slavery and Black vs. White; we are here because we fought and died on both sides to have the choice to raise whatever flag we want to.
Kanye West, who claims Chicago as his home, was born in Atlanta GA in 1977 so, I’m sure that he’s seen his share of Confederate Flags. It was not until 2001, that the State Flag of Georgia, which contained the Southern Cross, was changed to suit businesses, white liberals and the NAACP. I haven’t done much research or really paid any attention to Kanye and his reasons for embracing the Confederate Flag, but I understand and I do think it’s his right to wear it, rock it, sport it or flaunt it anyway that he sees fit. It’s a part of his heritage; it’s a part of all of our heritage in this country whether we like it or not. So, no matter where you stand, if it’s with the Union or the Confederacy and no matter what flag you’re waving, both of them are drenched in our blood.
Take your pick!