The Flag

One last serious post and then it's back to fart jokes and music references. I don’t hate the confederate flag. I mean, I hate the sight of it and the feeling of fear and anxiety it causes me. But I don’t hate it. It’s subtler than wearing a t-shirt with a hanging black man that says in bold font “Niggers must Die!”, but it serves the same purpose. When I see it on a pick up truck, I know to accelerate and go about my business. When I see it on a t-shirt, I know to cross the street and create the safety that comes with distance. I’d welcome a world where rapists all wore a Tapout shirt or something, so you knew who to avoid at last call, where thieves literally dressed like the Hamburglar and expectations were firmly defined. Though me wearing my black skin has elicited the response of an old lady clutching her purse on more than one occasion, as if I had interest in such things (aside from the sweet bounty of Werther’s originals and peppermint candies within). Yes, I get it, I’m guilty of stereotyping as much as the other side. I’m sure there’s a southerner who brandishes the confederate flag with pride, listens to NPR and “has a black friend”, I’ve just yet to meet them (and it sounds like a unicorn wearing a crown of California Condor plumes). Last week a racist gunned down 9 innocent people and it has brought banning the confederate flag to the table (in 2015), into conversations (in 2015) and nearing a reality (in 2015). I was thinking of history’s many martyrs whose tragic exits have ushered in great change, and if this is all that comes from these 9 deaths, it’s not nearly enough. The fact that it is even up for debate in this day and age is somewhat depressing. But here we are. Our future’s history books will read like tragic comedy, confederate flags flying to this day, gay marriage not universally accepted and guns everywhere yet a wonder why there’s so many mass shootings. Earlier this week I fell into the darkest rabbit hole I’ve yet to know. I started reading ultra conservative / racist websites, reading the comments on the articles, trying to place my thumb on the pulse of a beating heart unfamiliar. It started when a confederate flag showed up in my facebook feed amongst the gifs of cats being assholes, relationship announcements and short videos of my friend’s offspring not doing anything particularly exciting. To my surprise it was someone I knew posting and praising the confederate flag. I followed it to a website that looked like it was designed in the late 90s with no spell check and then I followed link after link until I feared for my life, mourned the death of humanity and began to sleep with two eyes open. I went back to the original post a few times, debating whether or not to comment on it. I finally decided to, after all, no strides are made in silence. On occasions when I think maybe I can make a difference in someone’s perspective, I generally tip toe, so instead of “WHY ARE YOU POLLUTING MY FACEBOOK FEED WITH YOUR RACIST ASS FLAG NONSENSE YOU FUCKING FUCK”, I tried to explain what that flag means to me in the soft toned voice I use to pry rock candy from the grasp of elderly women. I explained that regardless of what one’s intention is with that flag, this is what every black American feels when they see it, fear, hatred, oppression, every time they’re read the word “nigger” etched into the wall of a bathroom stall, every time they’ve heard its bitter bite shouted and the kind of paranoia that fits well within the frames of reason. Some guy with a confederate flag as his profile picture

(and I thought twice about my profile picture of a raccoon humping a beagle) got back to my comment right away. He wrote “Alfred Howard…..It really offends me to see young “men” walking around in public for my daughters to see…….with their pants down below their asses……should we stop that as well.” First of all, I love that “Men” is in quotes, already establishing that we are less than. I was so dumbfounded by this response that it basically cleared up all the confusion. “Oh, I’m literally trying to have a rational conversation with a fucking idiot who’s response to his fear of young black males is to in turn intimidate them with fear.” As if “two wrongs don’t make a right” wasn’t one of the first tenets all parents bestow upon their children. How do you build a bridge to a mind so distant? I sent him an email, an invitation to talk. Because I can post all the equality rants in the world and harvest likes from people who already agree with what I’m saying, but if I can change the mind or vantage point of someone who likely hates my existence before knowing it, then it’s a small victory. At the end of the day a flag is color on fabric, we infuse our symbols with meaning through action. The Swastika finds its roots in Hinduism, but meaning evolves and evokes. The confederate flag is a racist symbol with an ocean of blood shed in its name. You can claim it means something else to you, but it carries a weight beyond virtue regardless. I once hoped that the archaic values it represents to me would die through the course of generations, but hatred is passed on, not through blood, but through whispers. We just need to shout the opposite.