On the Confederate flag…

On the Confederate flag…

Once upon a time, in a not so distant past, our country was divided in half when the Confederate States seceded from the Union in 1860 and started the Civil War. The Confederacy consisted of 11 states led by Jefferson Davis from 1861-1865.

On March 21, 1861, Confederate VP Alexander Stephens described the ideology of the Confederacy to be “based upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man: that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural condition.” He also stated that anti-slavery “fanatics” were attempting to “make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.” He goes even further to quote Bible verses to support his belief that black citizens are inferior to white citizens, and that “it is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.” This was part of a speech known as the Cornerstone Address. Follow this link to read it in its entirety. It’s worth the read to get a full grasp on the insanity that was the Confederacy.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/cornerstone-speech

It’s an unequivocal truth that the Confederacy was founded on and motivated by white supremacy. Their only reason for existence was because they wanted to keep their slaves. They believed black people were inferior. THEY WERE RACISTS. There is no way around that fact. No way to sugar-coat it or explain it away. People died just so these states could fight to keep their slaves. It’s estimated that around 620,000 men died in the line of duty. In today’s numbers, that would be around 6 million people. And that is just soldier casualties. That doesn’t include civilians.

As time has passed, the Confederacy and it’s reason for existence has been romanticized by some, and the history is sometimes conveniently rewritten. People make claims that the states weren’t motivated by slave ownership, but rather by opposition to “liberalism” and the need for states to maintain financial independence. Churching it up doesn’t change the facts though. “Maintaining financial independence” meant the south relied on slave labor on plantations, which is where their money was made. If there is no one to pick the cotton or take care of the livestock or harvest the food, there would be no income. In fact, Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession stated that “none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun” that makes cotton flourish. While there were other financial reasons that the south seceded, the overwhelmingly main reason was so they may continue to own slaves.

During it’s 5 year existence, the Confederacy used a variety of different flags. In fact, they had 3 different official national flags: The “stars and bars,” the “stainless banner,” and the “blood-stained” banner. The one that became most associated with them was the “battle flag.” This flag was actually a rejected design, and was never an official national flag of the Confederacy. The Sons of the Confederacy adopted it as a symbol of “southern heritage,” thus trying to change the original narrative of what the Confederacy was founded on. After the war, the battle flag was tied to the memory of the war. As time went on, it was rarely displayed. That started to change in the 1930’s, when Congress nearly passed an anti-lynching bill. In 1948, a segregationist group called the Dixiecrats used the flag in their political campaign, and thus spurred the flag’s popularity. It then began being used as a response to the civil rights movements in the 1950’s and 1960’s. and has continued to be a symbol of racism, used by white supremacists and the KKK throughout history, and is still used for that purpose today.

So all of this begs the question…why would anyone own/fly/wear/celebrate the Confederate flag, or want statues and monuments of it’s leaders? Knowing that they all believed they were the superior race, that they owned slaves and would continue to do so had they won, why would anyone support that to this day?

The majority of the rhetoric surrounding this is that the flag is a sign of “southern heritage” and “southern pride.” This makes absolutely no sense to me. And here’s why:

  • The soldiers who bore the American flag were killed by those who bore the Confederate flag. The irony that the Confederate flag represents patriotism or any American values is extraordinary.
  • Why would a flag that represents being a traitor to your country be a sign of patriotism or pride?
  • The Confederacy lasted for 5 years. 5 years. Barely the length of a college education. And they lost the war. Why would you celebrate that? Ironically, the same people displaying Confederate flags are often the same people complaining about participation trophies. The Confederacy lost. There is no participation trophy or any reason to brag. Take the loss and move on..
  • Waving the Confederate flag as a sign of “southern pride” is the equivalent of waving a Swastika and calling it “European pride.”
  • You don’t see any Americans flying a British flag or building statues of Benedict Arnold. Why? Because the British lost and Arnold was a traitor.
  • There are people all over the country, outside of the south, that tout the Confederate flag image. It’s not your heritage. It’s an excuse to be racist.

The same goes for monuments of Confederate soldiers. Yes, it is important to remember our past and learn from it. However, these men are not people to be celebrated or memorialized. These statues belong in museums, where they can be properly contextualized. Where they can be explained for what they were, and what they mean today. These statues were not designed to celebrate the Confederacy. They were erected in the Jim Crow era and were designed to promote white supremacy and scare African Americans. There is a distinct difference between remembering and memorializing, and we must learn and understand that difference.

It’s important to remember that every Confederate soldier and representative took up arms against the United States. They were traitors. And just like we don’t celebrate Benedict Arnold, we must not celebrate or memorialize these men.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a slippery slope. If we take these things away, what’s next? Washington? Jefferson? Franklin? I mean, they all owned slaves, right? Who’s to say they won’t be the next ones to be demonized? That’s a false narrative. It’s something racist people say and the media uses to make you think we are erasing history. No one is trying to erase history. They are trying to stop the idolization of racist traitors. The difference between these Confederate symbols and our founding fathers is that our founding fathers are remembered and respected for more. Freeing a nation. Writing a Constitution. Doing what, at the time, was what was needed and shaped our country. The fact that they owned slaves was despicable, and shameful, but they are also remembered for the good achievements they had. What did Robert E. Lee or any other major Confederate player do for the greater good? Nothing. That’s the difference.

Bottom line: The Confederate flag is not a symbol of your patriotism. It is not a symbol of your heritage. And it should not be a symbol of your pride. It is, however, a symbol of white supremacy. Of systemic racism. Of tyranny. Of traitors. Of losers. Of death. It has no place in this country, or in the hearts and minds of any true American citizen.

Lay down your sign of a traitorous group that lasted for only 5 years. Pick up the symbol that is meant to and should represent us all, and advocate for equal justice for every American citizen under that flag.

And that’s on the Confederate flag…

Sources:

https://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/confederate-states-of-america

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/06/pride-and-prejudice-the-americans-who-fly-the-confederate-flag

On White Privilege…

On White Privilege…

Hi friends. I’m going to be doing a short series of posts to address some of the things going on in our crazy world today. I am by no means an expert on anything. I am, however, an empath. I feel things. I feel other people’s things. And I am the kind of person who still believes in the good. In romance, in miracles, in right and wrong, in equality and justice for all. I will keep holding on to those ideals and fight for them to my very last breath. I am NOT a bleeding-heart, liberal snowflake. I’m not fragile, I’m not overly sensitive. I am a believer in human rights. I believe that the strongest thing you can do as a human is to show empathy and kindness to others. There is nothing more courageous than love and compassion. That makes me one of the strongest people you will ever know. And I believe that even though our nation is so polarized and divided right now, that we all have good in us and we should try to rediscover it. Now, more than ever, we just need to remember to be kind humans. And I pray that someday, we all strive for freedom and equality and justice and fairness for every single American. That is the principle on which our country was founded, after all.

I’m going to say some things that will make you uncomfortable. That is the point. A lot of these things made me uncomfortable until I decided to face them, to educate myself, and to put myself in the place of others.

On bias…

Let’s start with something simple: Bias. We all have biases. No one is exempt, no one is free from it. It’s an inherent thing that we all have. And I don’t just mean racial bias. There are many kinds of bias. Most of us get ours from how we were raised, who we grew up with, where we went to school, what neighborhoods we lived in, what we saw on television, any number of things. We all HAVE biases, and we all EXPERIENCE bias. Now, before you get defensive and start yelling that you have no bias towards anyone, ask yourself these questions. Give yourself a check mark for each of these questions that you answer with a “yes.”

  1. Have you ever crossed the street or walked another direction to avoid passing someone that made you feel uncomfortable simply by looking at them?
  2. Have you ever looked at any of your neighbors, and based on appearance alone, felt they “don’t belong here?”
  3. Have you every seen a person with a lot of tattoos and thought they were “trashy?”
  4. Have you ever looked at a woman in a revealing outfit and immediately thought she was a slut?
  5. Have you ever seem a mom with a kid throwing a tantrum and thought “I would never let my child behave that way?”
  6. Have you ever heard someone speaking a foreign language and became angry at them for not speaking English? Did you automatically assume because they’re speaking their native language that they don’t know how to speak English?
  7. Have you ever seen someone pay for groceries with an EBT card and think they’re lazy people who just don’t want to work?
  8. Have you ever seen a beat down car parked in your neighborhood and thought “that car can’t belong to someone who lives here?”

What if I told you…

…the “suspicious” man is walking alone down the street because he’s walking to work and he left the one family car with his wife in case there’s an emergency with the kids?

…the family of a different ethnicity that moved in down the street is actually a cardiologist and his family who moved here to work at a county hospital and serve the uninsured and needy?

…the woman with all the tattoos has a PHD in children’s psychology and runs an elite private school for gifted children?

…the woman in the short dress is an orphaned, 18 year old waitress working her way through college, who has 4 outfits total in her wardrobe and is just doing her best to make ends meet?

…the woman with the screaming child is a mother of 4, who took her one autistic child on an outing to expose him to social situations, and it was just too much for him and he melted down?

…the family speaking Spanish to each other were actually all born in America, and English is their first language, but they like to speak to each other in Spanish to honor their heritage and expose their children to their native language?

…the woman with food stamps is fostering 5 children with nowhere else to go, and therefore receives money from the state to help feed and clothe the extra people she has graciously taken into her home?

…the old and worn down car belongs to a family with a 6 figure income, and are saving every hard-earned penny to get out of debt so they can pay cash for a new car after they are completely debt-free?

If you knew these things about these people, would it change your viewpoint? Probably. But how could you possibly know that from a glance? You can’t. Each and every one of us has some kind of implicit bias in our minds, and the only way to get rid of it is to acknowledge it and try to understand better. To try to remember everyone has a story, everyone is going through something. We don’t know everyone’s story, and we shouldn’t make assumptions to fit our own biased narratives. That’s the first step, to acknowledge the things you are biased about, and do what you can to have a better understanding of why it might be incorrect.

On White Privilege…

“White Privilege” is a very triggering term to many of us white folks. It has the ability to send people into a blind rage and cause fights among friends. And I will be the first one to raise my hand and admit that it offended me when it first started trending. I honestly wish it had a different name, because I think people hear the word “privilege” and immediately associate it with just being handed things. It triggers an immediate negative response in most white people. Hearing the term the first time made me feel immediately defensive. Here’s why:

I did not grow up as what most people would call “privileged.” Until I started high school, I was mostly raised by a single mother. She could barely make ends meet. I never had fancy clothes, or the newest tech. I didn’t have extravagant birthday parties or go on exciting vacations. Most of my clothes and toys were second hand. I shared a room with my little brother most of my life, until my mother re-married. We. Were. Poor.

I have had many, many struggles throughout my life. My early childhood had a lot of trauma and stress. I have been sexually assaulted. I have been treated less than because I’m a woman. I have been a single mother. I have had to choose between buying life-saving medication or paying rent. I have known loss and struggle and heartache, and I continue to thrive in spite of all that. In my mind, no amount of “privilege” had anything to do with it, and I took offense to anyone saying so. I never once believed that the word “privilege” belonged to someone with my story.

However, once I began to listen and really try to understand what people of color were saying when they used the term, it really began to sink in.

READ THIS STATEMENT AND ABSORB IT:

White privilege DOES NOT mean you have never struggled.

Let me say it again: White privilege does not mean you have never struggled. It has nothing to do with choices that you have made. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t suffered adversity in your life. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work damn hard to get where you are. What it means is that of none of those struggles happened to you because of the color of your skin. It’s a built-in advantage you have, simply because of your whiteness. It’s an uncomfortable fact that we MUST face: White skin affords us a lot more luxuries than we even realize. It allows us to have things that shouldn’t even be considered luxuries, they are just basic human rights, yet people of color typically do not enjoy those same privileges. It doesn’t mean anyone hates you because you are white. It doesn’t mean you should hate yourself, or feel guilty because you are white. No one has a choice in what race they were born as. No one is asking you to feel guilty SIMPLY because you are white.

What it does mean is that you are awarded a certain amount of benefits and safeties that many people of color are not. It means that statistically speaking:

  • You will not be considered suspicious simply because of the color of your skin.
  • If you commit a crime, you will likely get a lesser sentence than a person of color who committed the same crime.
  • You will have a better relationship with law enforcement than people of color.
  • You will be considered more educated or capable than a person of color with your same education and abilities.

And although this privilege does often contribute to racial bias, it is not necessarily synonymous with racism. Being white and the benefits that come with it do not automatically make you a racist. Your refusal to acknowledge that you will almost always receive better treatment because you are white, and your refusal to care or fight against that does.

Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.” ~Peggy McIntosh

Still don’t believe me? Still think it’s something people made up to make white people feel bad? Still think skin color doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things? If you do, I implore you to really ask yourself the following questions, and sit for awhile with any discomfort you feel with the answers.

  • Have you ever gone to the makeup or hair care aisle of a store and not been able to immediately see products tailored for your hair or skin type? Without having to find a specially labeled “ethnic section?”
  • Have you ever seen a band-aid labeled “flesh-colored” that wasn’t some shade of your skin color?
  • Have you ever had someone doubt or question your intellectual ability, education level, credit score or ability to buy something, or salary because you have white skin?
  • Have you ever been followed, interrogated, or randomly searched by police officers because you are white, with no reason at all behind it?
  • When you have watched Disney movies or sitcoms throughout your life, have the majority of the characters been people of color, or have they mostly looked like you?
  • In school, was the history of white Americans the majority of curriculum?
  • Do you ever wake up and fear that your child or spouse won’t return home that evening because of their white skin?
  • Have you ever worried that you would not be hired, or passed over for a promotion because you’re white? Have you ever been awarded a position simply because of an affirmative action policy?
  • Have you ever made a mistake or achieved an accomplishment and have the reason for that failure or success attributed to being white?
  • Do you have to think about and be prepared to advocate for the color of your skin every single day of your life?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, check out this list from Peggy McIntosh on white privilege:

If you are a white person in America, you benefit from white privilege. This is not an opinion, no matter how hard some people try to make it one. It is a fact. You reap certain benefits, and sometimes those benefits come at the expense of others. It is something that has been present throughout the history of this country. And it’s something we need to understand, acknowledge, be uncomfortable with, say out loud, and fight against. Being white doesn’t make you inherently evil or racist. But if you don’t recognize it and stand against systemic racism, if you continue to reap those benefits knowing others don’t, and you don’t care, then you a part of the problem. And if you think standing up for justice and equal rights for all Americans is “radical” or “fragile” or “snowflake” behavior, then you need to adjust your perception of what normal is verses what it should be.

And that’s on white privilege.