I’m getting so used to 80 minute blocks that I’m not sure how to handle a 40 minute period when it gets thrown at me. Today was a 40 minute period day (five classes in one day, how did I ever handle this?), and I threw a quiz at my students in which they had to use Desmos to plot some data and answer some questions. I love Desmos, but from the results it seems like many of my students still aren’t getting it (I suspected many are letting their partners do the work, thus I gave them this quiz).
After the quiz, some students were discussing Ahmed Mohamed and his clock. We talked about it a bit as a class; I encouraged them to not immediately throw in the ‘race card’ without knowing more about the school (it’s very diverse, as is the administration and faculty). I did not deny that racism may have been involved, but I suggested they not call someone names unless they know more of the details.
I’m writing to my fellow white people, many of whom I have seen write emotionally about why they fly the “Rebel flag” (often given other correct and incorrect names, so I’m going to put it in quotes for the rest of this article not out of disrespect, but just to acknowledge that the image has many names, and I’m only using one of them).
The “Rebel flag” is something many people want to keep flying, and they see no problem with it being flown to represent their culture and history. I’m going to try to explain to you why I believe the flag should be removed from prominent public display, either flying as official government display, or as bumper stickers, window decals, and other personal displays.
OK, I realize that to many of you the flag does not represent racism. I get that. It represents, to you, a culture of the South that was (and continues to be) very different from the North. My US roots are from California (four generations back) and Maryland (part of the North, but with many Southern “tendencies”). I can’t say I have strong Southern roots, but I’m not completely without them either.
I’ve traveled in the South, but never lived there. That being said, I appreciate the generally slower paced life in the South. I have known African-American friends who have moved “back” there after life in California wore them out, or didn’t feel like “home.”
Yes, I know our country has a history of racism in both the North, South, and “West.” When we haven’t had people of extremely dark skin around us, many Northerners picked the “other” Europeans (e.g. Irish and Italians) to inflict their racism on.
I also understand that the Civil War wasn’t just about slavery. The North wanted the South to keep producing agricultural products, and ship them only to the North so the North could manufacture them into something new and ship them back to the South for a profit. The agricultural region of a country is generally the least well-off financially. Northerners were happy to keep it this way. (Not that everyone in the North was happy and wealthy, just look at all the child labor and factory deaths.)
When it came to the slavery debate, there were people in the North who supported it, and people in the South who opposed it. Neither side can be categorized as “all good” or “all bad.”
We probably all have our bad histories. Some of us even can identify it—in my family, there is a rumor that on my mom’s side there was a ship captain who participated in bringing slaves into the US after this practice was outlawed in 1808. (And, as one of my cousins pointed out, this ship would have been flying the flag of the United States of America, not the “Rebel flag.”) While my current family certainly didn’t directly inherit wealth from this lucrative venture, it is likely a part of my family history—and perhaps earnings from this “business” may have allowed some of my relatives to move “upward” after this, with this “affluence” making its way through the generations to end up helping my mom be able to afford college, and maybe even helped me to buy the laptop I’m typing on.
So, I’m not trying to point fingers at the past. I’m writing about the impact of public display of an image that causes pain to so many. For many people, the “Rebel flag” does represent slavery. Slavery isone of the reasons the South separated from the United States.
My question to you is, how much pain would it create in you to not display this flag?
Think about it for a minute. When some folks see this flag, they are instantly angry at you, and you cause them pain. Do you really want that? Yes, I understand you don’t think they should be angry at you, but they are. And I think their anger can be understood, even if it means they may not understand your reasons for flying the “Rebel flag.”
Remember, the “Rebel flag” was used in the 20th Century by the KKK in protests against integration, voting rights, and on and on. I’m sorry the flag was flown during lynchings, but it was. These are things living people remember, not just a part of history from books.
We are one nation. Most Southerners I know of are proud to be part of the USA—I think part of them is happy that after the Civil War we retained our status as a single nation.
So, I ask you to please let go of this symbol. In our living together, we all may have to let go of some of our prized possessions. I’m sorry to have to ask you to do this, but it just pains me and other too much when the “Rebel flag” flies.
Lee Trampleasure, white European-American mutt.
PS. Perhaps this could be a time to create a new logo/flag that represents the good things about the South. There are many great artists from the South, perhaps there could be a contest to develop a design that brings to light the things you are proud of about your heritage, in a way that doesn’t have such a negative impact on people. Just a thought…