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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Confederate History Month

Confederate History Month

Some say that the South will rise again. Others think it will, as a turd in a toilet. But I digress. Look, I've visited the South and I loved it-- especially the food! The biscuits and gravy, the BAR-BQ-- my GOD is it delicious! And the people that I encountered were friendly and hospitable...not like it was the first time I visited.

Back in early 80s, when I was 8 years old, my family and I went on a road trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. One of the stops we made one the way down was this town somewhere in Georgia (I don't remember where exactly). My mom, dad, brother and I went for a swim in the hotel pool; it was packed. Within less than 5 minutes, it was empty; we were the only Black people there. Now, you could make a million jokes as to other reasons why that could have happened...but really, that was the reason. And I did not even think about it that way. It wasn't until years later, when I got into a fight with a kid a school because he called me a "black ape", and I had told my mother that I had never been around racism...and that's when she brought up the pool story.

Now, by all rights, I should hate White folks. But I don't. It's a waste of time and energy to shove a bunch of issues onto an entire group of people because I had a bad experience with a few. Do a few bad apples really spoil the bunch? Or can you not blame the whole for the faults of a few? I had to grapple with that for most of my young adult life. I grew up with White people; went to school with them, ate dinner in their homes, played little league with them. And yes, I heard the word "nigger" thrown around in a derogatory way. Not all the time, and not by everyone, but it was there. It angered me back then. I didn't understand how or why I could be disrespected like that by people that I didn't know, and that didn't know me. Eventually, I came to realize-- in addition to studying the history of America, Europe, and Africa-- that I should not be making other people's problems my own. Unfortunately, there are a great many people left in America that are willing to do just that.

Recently, Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell named April "Confederate History Month", with the hopes that Confederate history "should not be forgotten, but instead studied, understood, and remembered" as its leaders "fought for their homes and their communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today." And slaves-- he forgot to add slaves. They were fighting for their slaves. That's why there was a Civil War in this country, you save their slaves.

I actually agree-- I too believe that Confederate history should not be forgotten, and it should also be studied. I remember White kids in grade school asking me "There's a Black History Month, why isn't there a White History Month?" My answer was simple: "EVERY MONTH is White History Month." I honestly have no problem with setting aside times for cultural appreciation. It's a good opportunity for all Americans to enjoy different aspects of the people of our nation. But there's something about the word "Confederate" that always rubs people the wrong way. Think about it-- what comes to mind with that word? For me: nooses, white hoods, "Strange Fruit", slavery, plantations, spirituals, overseers, "mastah"...stuff like that.

I know there are some White people out there that feel that the democratic election of the first Black president of these United States of America (and not the Confederate States of America) is the end of all they know...or, more specifically what they want to know about the America they claim was once "theirs." Barack Obama inspires a lot of good in people...but it also conjures up a lot of bad feelings that, quite frankly, have been lying semi-dormant in this country for several decades. It's a complete and total illustration of the fact that this nation does not belong exclusively to Whites-- never has, and never will. Sure, Whites have been the predominate culture in this country, but only by the butt of the gun, the end of a rope, and a boot on the neck of others. But since there are laws to protect people from attacks, discrimination, and/or murder, the playing field is more leveled. We are all to be equally educated. We are all to be treated fairly under the Constitution. We all have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All things that sound theory. With the election of Barack Obama, those truths are now front and center-- in your face, and impossible to ignore. And many people just cannot handle that.

I've written a lot about race on this site, and others. I've been accused of being a racist, because I speak honestly and directly about race-- which includes criticism of Blacks AND Whites alike. It's a shame, really, that we cannot have a more direct and honest conversation about race without people getting crazy and defensive and angry. Some Blacks have to realize that not every White person is a racist. And some Whites have to get over this fetishized vision of an America that never was-- and realize that they are not God's one-and-only gift. As someone that grew up with White folks, I've never for a moment thought of myself as being inferior to them, or them as being superior to me or anyone else. It seems as is some of our countrymen(and women) need a bit more of an education in that respect.

As for Governor McConnell, I'm not really worried about him. I'm also not worried about the crazy teabaggers that like to throw bricks, make cowardly death threats, spit, or shout epithets. The nation by-and-large has moved on from this kind of thinking. Or, at least, it's trying to. Because as there are members of the Confederacy that fought for what they thought was important, the rest of America fought for AMERICA, and its ideals, and values. A true American patriot knows what's what. A Confederate mentality always seemed to be one based on ego, self-importance, and arrogance; all things antithetical to the American way.

A Confederate America is NOT the America that I know, or love, or want any part of. Remember it, yes. Commemorate it? Absolutely not. Just as Gov. McConnell feels that slavery was not that important, I can say that the Confederacy is worth about as much as used toilet paper.

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