In my book, “It’s Not Always Racist…but Sometimes It Is,” I discussed singer Brad Paisley’s 2013 release of his song called “Accidental Racist,” which was inspired by an incident involving the Confederate Flag. Apparently, Paisley was wearing a shirt with the
Confederate flag on it, and someone took offense. So in response, he wrote the song to highlight the two polarizing views about the flag that ironically, we have recently seen play out in South Carolina between the KKK and the Black Panther Party. Paisley wrote, “Caught between Southern pride and Southern bling/I’m proud of where I’m from, but not everything we’ve done.” To some Southerners, the flag is a symbol of regional pride, while to others it is a symbol of hate, slavery and oppression.
I agree that everyone has a right to freedom of speech and expression, even if it is not in favor of the racial group to which I belong. However, given the fact that the Confederate Flag is so offensive to so many people, and is considered a representation of how badly black people were once treated in the United States, taking down the flag in South Carolina was the right thing to do.
What 21 year-old Dylann Roof did, murdering 9 people that he prayed with inside of a church was lower than low. And thankfully, his desire to insight a race riot backfired! In fact, what he did managed to bring about a change that many in South Carolina desired – to bring down the Confederate Flag at the State Capitol.
It was amazing and encouraging to witness how swiftly the flag was taken down in South Carolina, and to watch all shades of people hugging and congratulating each other after Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill. To me, taking down the Confederate Flag in South Carolina was huge because it symbolized the State’s commitment to equality and harmony of the races. And most importantly, it gave a clear message to those racists who harbor hate towards people of color, and who wish to harm them that the State does not support their views.
This is why it has been fascinating to watch members of the KKK who have traditionally maintained their anonymity, come out to the Capitol in South Carolina and engage in arguments and fights with the Black Panther Party. I understand that both parties are angry, but why be there?
I have devoted my life’s work to teaching and promoting intercultural and interracial understanding and dialogue, so I know it is unproductive and a waste of time to argue and fight with people whom you will never convince to agree with your thinking. So if the KKK wants to bring their Confederate Flags to the Capitol and engage in futile protests—let them! WE—those who believe in love and respect for self and others—have already won. The flag has come down! My only hope is that other States will follow in the footsteps of South Carolina and take down other symbols of hate and oppression.