Flagged Off

La Shawn had the hot conversation jumping yesterday when she wrote abou an artist's plan to lynch the confederate battle flag at the Republican National Convention. In the comments, there was a roiling discussion on whether the cbf is improperly associated with the Republican party, since most of the people flying it in its hateful heyday were hardcore Democrats. Now, that's historically accurate, but I don't think any of us seriously believes that the Dixiecrats of yesteryear would belong to the same party as Jesse and Al without a major paradigm shift. I wrote about my feelings on the cbf earlier this year, but I think I want to expound a little bit. Basically, the cbf belongs in the same category as Saddam's flag and the Nazi flag, among others, as the representative of an opposing force that was crushed by the American Army. Period. I would be willing to bet big money that no cbf apologist would fix his lips to say "Iraqi citizens who were loyal to Saddam have the right to fly his flag if they want." What's the difference? Moreover, we're not talking about one of the other flags used in the confederacy, we're talking about the confederate battle flag. The one they flew as they were fighting to maintain slavery. (And I know, the "War Between the States was not about slavery, it was about States Rights." Wrong. I may break down the reasons why at some point when I really talk about why DC is the beginning of Down South and express my dismay at the fixation some people have on the Civil War, but that's not my point here.) And I know, I know, "it's not about believing in what they were fighting for, it's about recognizing their bravery in fighting for what they believed in." But that's just stupid. What they were fighting for is wrong, and whatever bravery they displayed is sullied because they were being brave in an unjust cause. Put it like this: when you see a Palestinian throwing rocks at a tank, you don't think about how brave he is, even though I'd say that it takes a certain amount of bravery (and foolishness) to go against an armored vehicle with some hand-sized stones. That ain't no adulterating woman. Ain't no stoning a tank. But because most of us side with Israel in that conflict, we see more foolishness than bravery in the Palestinian's actions and condemn him because he's fighting for the wrong thing. The other argument I hear cbf apologists make has something to do with some nebulous Southern heritage. Now, I'll be right up front and tell you that I love it Down South. Ever since undergrad, I have been planning to move down there at some point, and not to Atlanta. I'm talking about back in the cut Down South. But let me tell you, nothing that I appreciate about the South is represented by the cbf. That's a piece of the history of the South, but that's not its heritage. I wouldn't care if my great-great granddaddy owned a plantation and worked his way up to general in the confederate army, I would still refuse to capitalize confederate and I would still say that no matter how brave he was, he was pure-d wrong. That would be a part of my family's history, but that don't make it my heritage; my legacy would not be that of a slave-owning Black man unless I chose to embrace that. But okay, let's switch the focus off the past and look at the present. What does that flag represent that's worth arguing about in 2004? To my friends who are cbf apologists, I ask this question: if you came to my spot and saw the flag of the Black Panther Party, would you make some assumptions about my ideology what I think about white people? What about if I commemorated Huey P. Newton and H. "Rap" Brown's (still the best nickname ever) birthdays and talked about what great men they were? After all, the Panthers did some good things like feeding children before they went to school. Is that what you remember about the Panthers, though? Could be, but I doubt it. But just to take it up a notch, let's say that there was an organization that not only voiced rhetorical opposition to whites, but actually had the power in the community to systematically subvert justice away from them; they could drag a man outside in front of his family and kill him, and even though everybody in town knew who did it, nobody would be penalized. And then let's say that I flew their flag and posted their emblems. You wouldn't even come to my virtual home, let alone want to associate with me in person. But just to sew it up, here's the logic: "The klan flew/flies the confederate battle flag...I despise everything they represent....let me fly the same flag as they do." Come on, now. We can do better than that. Look, people can do what they want with their private property. If somebody wants to fly the cbf, that's his prerogative. I'll even admit that flying the cbf or being an apologist for it doesn't necessarily mean a person is a klan sympathizer. But why play in that gray area in the first place? Because just like it's his right to fly that flag, it's my right to keep a suspicious eye on him and to keep my hand on the nearest (decimal point-named) implement.