That’s right. You read the title of my blog correctly. Racism is a reality in today’s society. No, we don’t have segregated schools and pools and restrooms but there is real race-based hatred that still stirs our streets today. We can watch movies like The Help, The Butler and Selma and think about how far we’ve come but if we’re blind to how far we still have to go, we’re not gaining any ground.
When I was a little girl, I competed in rodeos every weekend. Many of you are likely shocked by this as you’ve only known me through college, church or Corporate America. About the same time I was doing the rodeo thing with my family, our local high school placed a ban on Confederate Flags on school grounds. A group of high school guys were offended by this new ban and decided to fly huge Confederate Flags in the back of their trucks, park in an abandoned parking lot off school property and walked to school. They would also drive through the school parking lot during school events to make their point. This all happened while I was around 5th grade or so when I began to go through a weird phase myself. As a part of this Southern Pride Rodeo culture where everyone listens to their country music on truck tail gates drinking beer, flying the Confederate flag was just part of that culture. I can remember having to have every single “Dixie Outfitter” t-shirt possible and being so excited when my dad got me a Confederate flag saddle blanket. I had absolutely no regard to how the flag made others feel and I felt it was part of my heritage. And it was/is. Was I racist? No. Was I ignorant to the ramifications that my freedom of speech as a young girl would have on my African American friends? Absolutely.
As we all know, 9 church members of Mother Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina were gunned down during a prayer meeting last month. This act of terrorism was rooted in White Supremacy and Racism. Since then, there are many politicians and journalists capitalizing on the situation as they strike up gun control conversations but an additional conversation has been started through this tragedy as well. A Confederate flag has flown over many Government buildings, including the Capital Building in South Carolina and was removed this week; which has stirred quite the controversy for those identifying with Southern Heritage and are fighting to keep the flag flying.
In regard to those that are so opposed to the Confederate flag being removed, my question is this: What part of this flag’s history is so noble that we should disregard the hurt it brings to others? Our heritage lies in those who are likely the same ones that scoffed at black people who were sitting a little too close to them on the bus. Our heritage lies in those who are likely the same ones who dressed in white sheets, flew that flag and set a bus of freedom riders on fire in Birmingham, AL on May 14, 1961. Our heritage lies in those who were likely the same ones who felt the need to own and brutally treat African American slaves. And to make sure we get our history straight, our ancestors were likely the ones to drive out Native Americans during the trail of tears, cast out immigrants coming through Ellis Island and a mile long list of other atrocities committed by white folk. We can honor our heritage and honor those who fought and died for the “freedom of the South” without publicly waiving symbolic flags that stir up more hate and hurt in our society.
Maybe I’m alone in this but I’m not afraid to say that when I take a deep dive into my heritage and the history of my own race, I’m terribly embarrassed. I’m terribly embarrassed to have been so excited to have such a flag stamped on my saddle blanket as a young girl that would cause pain to others. I’m terribly embarrassed that my skin tone makes me privileged. And I’m terribly embarrassed that so many White Americans representing the church are fighting the removal of the Confederate flag.
Just like any other sin, racism is a heart condition. Same as jealousy or greed or pride. And if you are as hurt by the shooting in Charleston as you posted on Facebook weeks ago, then it’s time that we, as the church, truly start searching our hearts and casting out all judgement and prejudice. Over the last few weeks, I have seen multiple posts essentially mocking those who are offended by the Confederate flag. You can’t ask for prayers for the families of those 9 people killed last week and then mock others who are offended by the Confederate flag the next.
There’s a disconnect and it’s a big one and it’s keeping people from seeing the true redemptive story of Jesus Christ. It’s promoting an inconsistent message. We can’t be a people who promote a God of love while also defending a flag that can symbolize hate. We don’t have to erase the history of our country. Actually we shouldn’t forget! We should study it and learn from it so that we can assure ourselves not to repeat it. The sins of our people are not to be forgotten just as we shouldn’t forget our own sins but reflect and learn.
The flag may be a symbol of your heritage but it’s also a symbol of the heritage of others as well… a very painful one and we shouldn’t be so persistent to display ours to stir up hurt in the hearts of others. “Heritage, not hate” may be stamped on your Facebook and Instagram as your stance on this issue but until we open our eyes to see that it’s actually a Heritage of Hate, we’ve gained absolutely zero ground in this fight for racial reconciliation in this country and in our churches.