I attended a high school with rebel roots. We were a Southern school on the south side of town. Our rival high school was on the north side. We were the majority white school. They were the majority black school.
The school mascot in those days was Johnny Reb, our unofficial theme song was Charlie Daniels’ “The South’s Gonna do it Again.” Under the Friday night lights, the parking lot was filled with Confederate flags. After every touchdown, the band played Dixie, and we sang “I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten.” We justified it all, said this Confederate lingo was just part of our heritage.
I never took a stand against the mascot or the Confederate flag (the flag which was officially banned my sophomore year) in those days. Perhaps this was because I didn’t understand the full implications of our histories, our heritage. Perhaps I blamed any criticism of the tradition as benig levied by those who were “too sensitive,” or “too politically correct.” Perhaps it was because I didn’t listen to my black friends.
Whatever. I was wrong.
My family sneaked away to Gulf Shores, Alabama last week for a little rest and relaxation. There, on the beach, plain as day, teenage boys wore Confederate flag shorts, and cars in the parking garage had stars-and-bars license plate holders. I saw at least a half-dozen Confederate flags flying on the highway, and more symbols of Southern rebellion on teeshirts, sunglasses, and belts.
It’s strange, when you think about it, this swath of folks celebrating a flag that stands for treason and racism. If they flew ISIS flags, they’d be called traitors and racists. We’d round them up, interrogate them. We’d detain them and subject them to all manner of examinations. But these aren’t Muslim terrorists, see. These are our own people, the people who share our office cubicles and grocery store aisles with us. Maybe a person or two who goes to church with us.
Do you see the treason? It looks like us.
This morning I read the daily collect in the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:
“Keep O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion.” (emphasis added)
The truth is, racism is baked into our society. The truth is, the Confederate flag is a flag of treason and racism. The truth is, it is a symbol of hate speech, and ultimately, of treasonous evil.
I grew up in a world where flying the stars-and-bars was justified as “heritage not hate.” Let’s be honest. It’s always been about hate not heritage. It’s always been about rebellion.
I’m grieving for my black brothers and sisters in Charleston, South Carolina. I’m grieving for the violence they suffered at the hands of a domestic terrorist. I’m grieving for children of the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, who will grow up without a father because of a racist with a gun. And I’m sorry they’ll be reared in the shadow of the Confederate flag flying high over the Capitol.
See a Confederate flag? Speak out against it. Is this an attack on the Southern heritage, at least in part? You bet.
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