Quotable Quote of the Month

What does it take for Republicans to take off the flag pin and say, 'I am just too embarrassed to be on this team'?".- Bill Maher

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An Enduring Symbol Of Oppression

I'd like to piggyback on Malcolm's recent post about the Confederate flag and in a way, hopefully, that doesn't steal any of his thunder (smile).


The first time I was moved to write about this subject was way back in 1989. My essay appeared as a guest column in The Memphis Commercial Appeal and was penned in response to a previous guest column by an individual, who, among other things, described the Confederate battle flag as a "symbol of a proud and honorable people."



While I acknowledged the writer's right to interpret the Confederate flag in a positive light, I shared my own reasons for not being able to do so. The following is a somewhat revised excerpt from my original essay, which also holds the honor of being my first published newspaper piece.



Flag Remains A Symbol of Oppression
by Lori D. Johnson


It is difficult to understand how people can disscuss the Civil War in terms of brave soldiers and battles fought without mentioning that not all of the ideals fought for were admirable. How does one embrace the Confederate flag without embracing the evil beliefs which prompted its creation?



As a Southerner, the Confederate flag is also a part of my heritage. But unlike Mr.____ , I detest it, just as conscientious individuals in Germany, South Africa and indeed all over the world, detest the symbols of Nazism and apartheid as symbols of oppression. For me, the flag does not represent hospitality or regional pride. Instead, it represents the Confederacy's efforts to preserve a caste system, a way of life that was wrong and unjust.



Yes, it is honorable for soldiers to fight and die for the causes they believe. While it is only fair that we acknowledge their sincerity and courageousness, in the same breath we must also condem their convictions when they uphold the degradation of other human beings as proper and righteous.



As an African American, I recoil at Mr. ____'s attempt to equate the battles of the Confederacy with those of the civil rights movement. The former was a struggle to protect the ill-gotten rights of a privileged few. The latter sought to guarantee the inalienable rights of all who choose to live in America and believe in its Constitution.



Let us not forget that the war is over and the South was defeated. The flag served its purpose and is entitled to a place in history. It is not entitled to a place on the flag poles of a country that strives to make real the promises of freedom, justice and equality for all.



As a woman, the flag symbolizes to me the Confederacy's approval of the exploitation and abuse of my gender. It did not wave to defend the honor and dignity of enslaved women and girls subjected to the desires of men who were not their husbands or chosen lovers. It cast no shadows upon the breeding of women like cattle. It did not rise to condem the bastardizing of children destined for the auction block and sold to the highest bidder.



As a human being, my perspective prevents me from ever interpreting the Confederate flag as anything but a symbol of oppression.



It is not my wish to forget the past. There are too many lessons yet to be learned. But what has the South to gain by giving odes to an ancient relic of a lost cause? The challenge of the present is setting forth a new course for the future. Let us create new symbols under which to unite and put away the old ones, which had caused so much pain, for so many, for too long.

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