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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Police Detains NFL Player Whose Mother-In-Law Is Dying

I live in the Dallas - Fort Worth Metroplex where a police officer has been placed on administrative leave over a traffic stop involving an NFL player Ryan Moat, whom he kept in a hospital parking lot and threatened to arrest while Moat's mother-in-law lie dying inside the building. Officer Powell also drew his gun during the March 18th incident.

Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle apologized to the family and announced that Powell would be on paid leave pending an internal investigation. "When we at the command staff reviewed the tape, we were embarrassed, disappointed," Kunkle said. "It’s hard to find the right word and still be professional in my role as the police chief. But the behavior was not appropriate". Looking at the video, I feel the player should have been given the benefit of the doubt and not been harassed by the officer. Mr. Moat's story was easy enough to check out. A couple of nurses and even a fellow police officer attempted to pursuade officer Powell to let Moat enter the hospital to no avail.

When the exchange was at its most contentious, Powell said he could tow Moats’ SUV if he didn’t have insurance and that he could arrest him for fleeing because he didn’t immediately stop when Powell turned on his sirens. The pursuit lasted a little more than a minute. To read the story in its entirety click here. Moat's mother-in-law passed away before he was able to get to her bedside. To be fair, the officer has since attempted to apologize personally to Mr. Moat and his family, claiming that he showed poor judgment (you got that right!). Was the officer just being difficult or is this incident racially motivated?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Do You Say?

I met David Duke once. Kind of.

It was at least a decade ago. Probably more like a decade and a half.

I was an assistant store manager for a company called Service Merchandise. We were what was called a catalog showroom. Which meant you came in, saw what you wanted, wrote down the catalog number, went to the register to pay for it and than went to the customer service counter to wait for it to come down the conveyor belt from the warehouse. I know, I know, it sounds like a lot of trouble to buy something. Which is probably why you don’t see catalog showrooms around anymore. But for awhile in the 80s they were pretty popular in the South.

Sometime during the afternoon someone said Duke was in the store shopping. I’ve heard he’d been in before to shop, but never while I was on duty. I wanted to see him for myself. I think this was after he had already been in and out of the State House as a congressman. The store I worked at was in Metairie, which was part of the area where he once represented.

I went to the back of customer service so I could hand out the items coming down the belt. I watched him stand in line and make his purchase. It was a slow day and there were no other customers in line. The cashier that waited on him was black, so I waited for some word or gesture on his part. He merely paid for his item and then walked over to wait for it.

Within minutes his purchase came from the warehouse. He had purchased an electric razor. While he stood there I watched him. I don’t know what I was looking for.

I don't know if I expected to see horns or what. Sometimes the face of evil can be mundane.

When I was younger two stories from English class in high school remain with me to this day. One was “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson and the other was “A&P” by John Updike. In the latter story the stock boy Sammy makes a heroic gesture because he thought the manager of the A&P had been rude to some girls.

I think I was hoping to see Duke do something rude or racist so that I could make my own heroic gesture. I wanted to say something to him. Something that would cut to his core.

His order came up and I handed it to him without a word and he left.
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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.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Rebelling Against the Flag

While on the way to work recently, I stopped at the gas station around the corner from where I live to fill up my car. Also filling up their tank at a nearby pump was a trucker who worked for a company based here in Michigan. The trucker (a white male approximately in his mid to late 40s) gave me a nod of hello and I returned the favor. Something else I noticed about the trucker is that he was sporting a baseball cap with the Confederate Flag symbol on the front of it.

I realize that many people who display the Confederate Flag do so without any racial or political connotations. In fact, I recently learned that some use the Confederate Flag as a symbol of generalized working-class masculinity, suggesting rowdy rebelliousness, and detached from any intended historical, Southern regional, or racial significance, although almost always in a white context. The trucker that I encountered likely fits into this category. Having said that, because of its racist symbolism (through its use by several hate groups), I get a bad taste in my mouth whenever I see the Confederate Flag. Even though I live in Michigan, I see Confederate Flags (on the license plates and rear windows of motor vehicles) on a semi-regular basis. Because I don't like seeing them, whenever I'm behind a vehicle that has one displayed, I will go around them the first chance I get.

Although I feel it's bad policy for government buildings to display the Confederate Flag, I'm not saying that individuals should be stopped from doing so. However, I think it's important that they understand that the Confederate Flag stirs negative feelings in the hearts of many (including non-blacks). A few years ago, I was watching the "E! True Hollywood Story" about the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard and it discussed the controversy surrounding the displaying of the Confederate Flag on the roof of the Duke's car The General Lee. The creator of the show (Gy Waldron) was interviewed on camera for the "E! True Hollywood Story" episode. Courtesy of You Tube, I just watched the episode again. Waldron stated that painting the flag on the roof of the car was done innocently because it was commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s to see the flag painted on cars throughout the South. He added that because the use of the flag on The General Lee was not done as a political statement, he saw no reason to bow to pressure from anyone and remove it. I can appreciate that painting the flag on the car wasn't a political statement and why Waldron felt no need to remove it, but he lost me when he discussed the reason why it was used in the first place. The show debuted in 1979 and was set in the present, so why use something that was commonplace in the 1950s and 1960s? Although I haven't seen the big screen version of The The Dukes of Hazzard, I read that there was a scene that addressed the displaying of the Confederate Flag on The General Lee.

Rocker Tom Petty took a different view than Waldron regarding the Confederate Flag. Back in 1985, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released an album titled Southern Accents. In support of the album, the band did a tour they called "Pack Up the Plantation". As the stage backdrop, the band used a giant Confederate Flag. A music video (taken from the tour) for the song Rebels contains the backdrop as well as a scene of Tom draping himself in a Confederate Flag that was handed to him by a fan in the audience. When I first saw this video as a teen, it caused me to question what message Tom was trying to convey. Apparently, someone talked to Tom because I remember him doing an interview on MTV where he asked fans not to bring their Confederate Flags to his shows. He may have also discontinued the use of the Confederate Flag as the backdrop at his shows, but I'm not sure.

What are your thoughts on the Confederate Flag?