i grew up here in arkansas. in the south. in one of the so-called confederate states of america. growing up, these things were quite self-evident. from confederate flags waving proudly on bubba’s chevy stepside truck to the idolization of the dukes of hazard’s general lee to—on the very serious end of things—seeing nooses hung at church camp one year when a black student attended. yes, indeed, i grew up in arkansas.
that one particular year at camp (i was probably in 6th grade or so) when the nooses were displayed (leading to the lone black student calling home weeping in a state of confusion and betrayal), we had a subsequent large group conversation in which the behavior was discussed. strangely, though, what i remember most prominently is that, whereas the behavior was vaguely condemned, one of the counselors uttered the phrase, “it’s heritage, not hate,” excusing the behavior as misplaced pride in our heritage.
one of the counselors.
from that time on, i’ve seen that phrase printed on shirts, hats, bumper stickers and any other print means that rednecks have figured out how to manufacture. it’s produced a culture of we-can-explain-away-anything in the name of personal expression or celebration of regional culture. that culture has led to such things as, for example, a robert e. lee parade in cabot one year on martin luther king, jr. day. seriously.
on a bigger level, though, virginia governor bob mcdonnell declared april as “confederate history month” for his state.
to recap, a governor of a state in the united states of america has declared a month in which its people are to fondly look back and learn about one of the most grim, sad times in our nation’s relatively brief history. way to go, bob!
whenever someone begins to make a connection of slavery to the civil war and the secession of the confederate states, some slanted history person comes out of the woodworks and wants to convince you that the confederacy wasn’t about slavery. it was just a itty bitty minor piece of the bigger puzzle. it was about state rights and tariffs, right? nobody’s buying that. the reality is that slavery was the central issue that all others revolved around. yes, state right, tariffs, expansionism and other aspects were certainly contributors to the confederacy, but it was about slavery.
it was about god-fearing southerners having the god-ordained right to own black people and trade them like animals or goods. let’s just keep it real.
so when one of the top-level leaders in our country declares an entire month to be dedicated to the celebration of confederate history, i (and many, many others) are naturally disturbed.
we should absolutely, 100% learn about the secession, the civil war and the circumstances surrounding the issue in schools, but it should be remembered as a sad time, as a regrettable time, as a time when our country should be ashamed of our ignorant, amoral and sinful actions. we should learn and talk openly about the actions of adolf hitler and the holocaust, but—just like slavery in the united states—in should (and largely is) viewed as a grim reminder of when people lost their way.
the confederacy is a modern-day symbol of hate. it’s why hate groups embrace it. it’s the same reason hate groups embrace the swastika. let’s lay down these symbols, but moreover, let’s discontinue our celebration of this dark time in our nation’s past.
when heritage is hate, it’s time to find something new to celebrate.