Not Heritage, Definitely Hate

Jezebel flags this infurating story from the Times of Trenton:

The mother of a Kreps Middle School student suspended in a flap over her Confederate flag sweat shirt says she wants the school to formally apologize to her daughter, rescind her suspension and grant the teen permission to attend school outside the district. “If I can’t get those things I’m suing,” said the teen’s mom, Jane West. […]

She said her daughter, born in Virginia, considers the flag a symbol of her Southern heritage and has every right to wear it. She says she and her daughter are “far from racists.”

The interesting thing about this has less to do with the now-standard declarations of non-bias — after all, there are no racists in America, only the “misunderstood”—and more to do with West’s insistence that the Confederate flag is a symbol of her “Southern heritage” and not an endorsement of prejudice.

Here’s the deal. Like the younger Ms. West, I am a Southerner. My parents are from Georgia and Florida, and I grew up in Virginia, near the North Carolina border. I don’t have much of an accent (thanks to years of speech therapy, I sound like a radio host), but I have plenty of affection for Southern culture and its idiosyncrancies.

Insofar that I’m actually angry about the Confederate flag, it has less to do with the content of the symbol and more to do with the notion that it represents “heritage” and not “hate.” If the flag is a representation of Southern pride, then by definition, it excludes me from any membership in the tribe, so to speak. By virtue of our long history on the land —as slaves, sharecroppers, or otherwise — black Southerners have as strong a claim to Southern heritage as anyone else. Indeed, it’s simply true that the South wouldn’t actually be “The South” without the contributions of its countless black residents.

Between literature, art, food, and music, the South contains a wealth of things to admire and appreciate. The Confederacy isn’t one of them. And the Confederate flag—a relic of slaveholders and their crusade to preserve slavery—deserves its place in the ashbin of history.

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