Let’s Stop Pretending That Removing The Confederate Flag Alone Will End Racism
I’m tired. Exhausted really. It feels like ever since Trayvon Martin’s death there has been nothing but a series of racially charged incidents resulting in African Americans being killed or brutalized. I can see my sons in all the victims and I worry about what their future holds. The constant reminders that their skin color makes them a target for hate wears on my psyche daily and is slowly crushing my spirit.
By the time I heard the news of the church shooting in Charleston, I was all out of tears and had no desire to make sense of it all.
My frustration quickly boiled into rage and my heart hardened. I didn’t want to hear any rhetoric about how troubled this kid is, how he was a loner, mentally ill or somehow not responsible for his actions. I am not interested in having this monster humanized.
Sure enough, within hours of the shooting, the media was on a full on press to provide the alleged shooter with an excuse for his reprehensible actions. Asking questions like was he influenced by a hate group? What was his state of mind before the crime? Could his family have prevented this?
If this had been a person of color, no one would be asking these irrelevant questions. They would have been labeled a thug or terrorist and folks would be spewing out what vigilante justice they would enforce if given the chance. (FYI, I don’t support vigilante justice.)
I get that this hateful crime calls into question the delusional belief that we are somehow living in a post-racial America. But let’s be honest, this shooter isn’t some anomaly that we have to figure out. He’s your garden variety racist who cowardly attacked nine people when they were most vulnerable. Sadly, there are plenty more like him out there.
As long as society continues to pretend that racism and racial inequality is not a real problem, we will not be able to move beyond racial intolerance. So often when people report experiences of racial discrimination they are accused of using the race card.
Racism might not be expressed through lynching, burning crosses, and state sponsored segregation anymore, but it still exists. There are women still clutching their purses when in the vicinity of a Black male, countless African Americans are pulled over because they look menacing (aka Black), and there are people who still believe that mixing races is a sin.
So where do we go from here?
The current narrative about race is centered on the confederate flag. I appreciate the symbolism of removing this flag from the South Carolina State Capitol and elsewhere. However, at this point in history, we are way past symbolism. If removing the confederate flag is all we do, the symbolism will serve to be a mere Band-Aid on a festering wound created by years of oppression.
We need interventions that will effectively address the racial inequalities that people of color face on a regular basis. It’s time to dig in and find meaningful ways to put an end to problems such as racial profiling, police brutality, and institutional racism. We need to find solutions to racial disparities in poverty rates, economic resources, educational opportunities, and incarceration rates.
Not only is it important for our government to put in place policies and legislation to address racial inequality, it’s also time for individuals to self-reflect and see how they are contributing to the epidemic of racism.
What conversations are you having with your friends? Are you condoning racial slurs or laughing at racist jokes? Do you call people out for being racially insensitive or do you remain silent? What stereotypes do you have against people not like you? What messages do you send to your children about diversity and tolerance?
If we want to eradicate racism, we can’t keep waiting on government to lead the way. We need to start by doing our part to support tolerance in our homes and in our communities.
I want a better future for my children. One where society won’t need a reminder that #BlackLivesMatter because it will be a given. One where I don’t have to prepare my children for the first time someone calls them the ‘N’ word or when they are pulled over for walking/driving while Black.
Everyday I pray for my children to come of age in a world where they are indeed judged by their character and not the color of their skin. Like most parents, all I want is for my children to be happy and successful. I would hate for racism and intolerance to get in the way of them achieving either.
It’s such an important conversation. Taking down a flag is merely a teeny tiny step in the right direction.
It is a step in the right direction and I’m glad many people see it for what it is. I appreciate the symbolism but it’s time we did more so events like Charleston don’t happen again.
Beautifully put. I certainly wish I had an answer or a solution. Getting rid of the confederate flag is such a tiny step, but I do believe it is important. It is a symbol of racism and slavery in this country, and has no place on government buildings (or anywhere else, either, but sadly that probably won’t happen).
You raise some very good points. Change starts with us and it starts with the conversations we should be having with our children.
This is a great and pointed piece. I have shared, hopefully more will read it. We did one last week too. I do not like to leave links in comments, but I will tweet it at you if you are interested. Would love to hear any thoughts. It was well received, except by a couple of right-wing conservatives (hate the labels, but I’m trying to give you some context) that said we were being anti-white.
Your article was a great read and the information you provided was so thought provoking!
This is such a tragic situation. I am in awe of the church and how they have reacted with forgiveness and love. I think that their reaction is such a statement to others…and hopefully, a call to action on how to treat others with love.
I couldn’t agree with you more. I was really moved by the family members ability to let their faith comfort and guide them in their time of need. I know my first feeling would not be to forgive.
This is a hard topic to discuss. I agree that taking the flag down does not in itself solve anything, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. It certainly has no place on a government building in this country. Unfortunately I think eradicating racism is a long way off, but progress is progress.
The flag needs to go that’s for sure. However, I’m tired of the Bandaids that we keep putting on gaping wounds.
Great points! Yes, ending racism starts in the home and with how we raise our own families.
We live in a society where people believe that the government is ready, willing and able to make a lot of changes in their lives. It’s just not true. Sadly, we will never have the discussion because the media only emphasizes the fanfare of crazihood, instead of hitting the hard issues. We can make a change in our own lives, which I believe that I do, but I’m not sure how to translate that to a large scale.
While I agree with many of your points, I am also absolutely tired of being accused of being racist because I am
Caucasian. Just because I did not vote for Obama (twice!) does not make me a racist. I simply didn’t think he was qualified for the job. I had more executive and international experience than he had at the time he became President.
My boys love the Dukes of Hazard and play with Dukes of Hazard cars – but if you watched the show, they made fun of fat people (Boss Hogg) – there was no racism in it. I live in an area of the country with many Spanish speaking people. So even though my family spoke Polish at home, I learned Spanish and speak it fluently. I’ve been accused of being racist because I haven’t learned Haitian (I live near Miami.) Sorry, I don’t see it and like you I am tired of it.
It is part of our human nature to gravitate towards people who are similar to ourselves. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that – I am Christian so while I am perfectly comfortable with Jewish people I tend to hang out with my Christian friends from church. I live in an urban area – and tend to hang out with other couples who live in the city as opposed to the suburbs. I am heterosexual and married – so I tend to hang out with other married, heterosexual couples. I am also the mom to two little boys. That means I tend to end up meeting a lot of other mothers with boys. It is not because I don’t like moms with girls, but we don’t go to ballet, tap or Girls Scouts so I don’t meet those moms.
I’ve been discriminated against – as a nursing mom, as a woman, as a gringa, etc. Who hasn’t? But we all need to toughen up a bit and teach our children to do the same. I am not offended by Trump’s comments – rather, I celebrate freedom of speech. We also need to teach our children respect – to me that is the key.
If we continue to focus on Confederate flags and making excuses for everyone we will never see any progress.