I thought we were past the nigger days.
I mean, I wouldn’t go out in Eastern North Carolina after sunset by my lonesome and expect to make it home without incident. And that’s why trips to the beach are limited to day trips or overnighters in Myrtle Beach, SC where things are a little safer for people of color. Truthfully, I don’t know of anything bad actually happening in my lifetime but the mosaic of Confederate flags swaying in the wind in those coastal towns isn’t about pride in one’s Southern roots. Note to Daughters of the Confederacy et al., nobody ever bought that story. The Confederate flag is a symbol of white power, not at all the same as white pride or even Black power. Pride in one’s identity is beautiful and affirming. It ceases to be when it is a threat to the existence of outsiders which is exactly what the peculiar institution of slavery, white power, white supremacy, and Jim Crow Era were all about. The flag flies in remembrance of a time when Blacks were not considered fully human. When legislation, for purposes of taxation and representation, stipulated they were three-fifths of a person. It flies in remembrance of a time when Blacks were terrorized by their white neighbors with no course of action to protect themselves. When I see a flag, I know what it represents. It represents pride in a period of American history so ugly and hateful no good-hearted person takes pride in those stars and stripes.
Still, I appreciate the flag. It identifies the bigots for exactly who they are, what they believe, who they hate and there are no misunderstandings. There’s never a declaration of, “I’m not racist, but…” These days, the things I hear from my students or the things I read about on the internet from young people have me really unsure and uneasy about race relations in 2012.
It doesn’t even need to be said. Things are better for Blacks than they’ve ever been in American history. But then something happens like two teenage girls uploading a series of racist rants on Youtube and attracting an obscene number of followers and I just don’t know if that’s really true.
No one outside of rural America hangs Confederate flags. I don’t see skinheads flooding the streets of major cities. But I worry that they’re just blending in with the rest of us. I worry that they’ve learned what not to say in public because hate speech isn’t quid pro quo anymore. I worry they’ve taught their children how to properly conceal their racism. Or at least they had until free speech internet made its way into every room in every home and people suddenly had a new forum to share their every passing thought. I worry there’s more of them out there than I’d realized, until I remind myself of how much things have changed; not just superficially but in fundamental ways. There will always be people stuck in to their ignorance. And sadly, they’ll be fruitful and multiply and burden society with barrels and barrels of rotten apples. It’s white people and it’s Black people. It’s people people. Either we’ll learn that we’re all the same — people people — or we won’t and one day all hell will break loose.
All jokes aside, my favorite line is this: “And the other word that nobody’s allowed to use anymore that I grew up with saying.”
Personally, I think the whole thing was staged because she seemed entirely too articulate.
What do you think?