We are still discussing the Confederate battle flag and what it means to be Southern an what it means to be a Black Southerner. All of this over on the Facebookery. My friend Literata posted a meme about the Confederate flag and the swastika. My responses were these…
And yet–at least for the first one–there are other meanings to a different group of people. A symbol with power can have many meanings, not all of them conflicting.
I am saying it isn’t a binary, neither the one thing nor the other. It would be healthiest for the communities genuinely impacted by any symbol (as opposed to the social media juggernaut that has silenced many voices on all sides of these issues) to sit together in deep listening and sharing and see what comes of that. That is a healing way, though terribly difficult. Memes are easier, for sure. It is so much easier to shut one group down and raise another up but that usually doesn’t lead to reweaving the shredded fabric on community. So much easier to point and judge without getting into the messiness of justice within culture.
I am asking for the parties involved to come together so that oppressions can be truly accounted for and work begun toward eliminating them. Instead, we manage a number of feel-good gestures that–while important as gestures–may not move us forward to actual elimination of the horrific ill of racism. Ditto sexism. We can’t simply concur on what feels like a meaningful platitude without actually working–day by day, year by year–to take these toxic systems down.
I am saying it isn’t enough (to remove the flag) and now isn’t the place to stop and think we’ve fixed something. If we are truly interested in fixing the problem, of bringing healing all around, we have to do more than gestures. They aren’t empty–symbols are potent, which is how this conversation began. But gestures aren’t enough to ratify problems. That takes ugly, painful and messy work and a kind of endurance that most Americans don’t understand.
As a multi-generational Appalachian woman and a Pisces, it helps me to see all the sides of an issue and to get to the meat of it. My outlook tends to belt-and-suspenders and looking in the shady corners. I appreciate the gestures, truly. But what we really need–in my opinion–is the sort of process that South Africa went through–truth and reconciliation. And, frankly, that should have been done in 1875.
I encourage all Southerners, who love the South and hate the stereotypes and bashing, to fly the Bonnie Blue as a sign of cultural solidarity.