Catherine Durkin Robinson: There are Southerners worth knowing about, who bring pride to our region

When I taught high school, several students believed the Confederate flag to be a symbol of Southern pride. They wore it on t-shirts, belt buckles, or flew it from the back of their pickup trucks.

These were someone else’s children, so what they wore or waved was not necessarily my concern.

I did encourage them, though, to be honest about the reason.

“We can’t bend history and change facts to match our ideological view, no matter what Fox News will have you believe,” I often said.

Then I gave them some knowledge.

I taught that the Confederate flag was considered shameful for a long time, about a hundred years after the Civil War, until the 1950s and 1960s. It resurfaced when black Southerners demanded civil rights. In response, white Southerners took that flag out of storage and embraced it for one reason, and one reason only – to send a message that this was a white man’s country.

They meant to threaten and intimidate.

Keep in mind that hundreds of schools, streets, and towns all over the South were already named after Confederate generals, but we’re talking about the same people who deep-fry chicken and Twinkies and call it a meal.

Subtlety isn’t really their thing.

After the recent atrocity in Charleston, many raised the subject and supported the idea of removing the Confederate symbol from state flags and government buildings. It’s about time. Between police officer abuses all over the country and now several reported arsons at Southern black churches, this summer it’s especially hard to believe we are living in a new century.

My teenage sons and I watched Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X last week. Those movies are still relevant.

How depressing is that?

Memes circulating on social media compare white adults waving Confederate flags to black teenagers wearing saggy pants, as if both are equally offensive and simply a matter of personal taste.

Racists using a racist argument to defend a racist ideology.

Clever.

The Confederate flag represents people who took up arms against the United States and killed American soldiers, all to continue the legal practice of enslaving human beings, beating male slaves, raping female slaves, and destroying families for generations to come.

That’s what you’re celebrating, rednecks. Whether you want to admit it or not.

Ironically, these flag wavers are the same people who, a decade ago, burned Dixie Chicks albums because the lead singer dared to say they were ashamed President George W. Bush was from Texas.

Apparently, saying such a thing was traitorous.

But wearing a symbol celebrating 19th century traitors? That’s just dandy.

A kid wearing baggy pants isn’t even remotely in the same category. If those pants bother you because they originated with prisoners who couldn’t wear belts, and it just turns your stomach to see kids copying lawless prisoners, do us all a favor and check yourself.

Kids emulating outlaws is nothing new and not the predilection of black kids only.

In the 1950s and 1960s, white kids greased their hair back and wore leather jackets – just like street gangs.

When I was a kid, I spiked my hair and wore safety pins in my ears – just like Sid Vicious.

When you look back, do these style choices turn your stomach in the same way? Discuss among yourselves.

Teenagers in the ‘50s didn’t do these things because they wanted to commit crimes. I didn’t do these things because I wanted to emulate heroin addicts.

Kids do these things because they enjoy annoying the hell out of adults.

The way rednecks like to annoy smart people with their ignorance.

If residents south of the Mason Dixon Line want to celebrate Southern pride, pass out copies of To Kill a Mockingbird. Create a town festival and hold an annual “Atticus Finch of the Year Award” or “Boo Radley Day” for distinguished local heroes who deserve the attention.

Plan a Southern Pride Parade where marchers hold pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Dorothy Dawson Burlage, Harper Lee, or any heroic Southerner who helped to make this world a better place.

Name your schools, streets and towns after Helen Keller, Medgar Evers, Jackie Robinson, or Ralph Abernathy.

These are Southerners worth knowing about. Southerners who have done more to enrich the lives of Americans and bring pride to our region than any Confederate general who murdered Americans so that men, women, and children could stay enslaved.

And then put your flag back in storage. For good.

Catherine Durkin Robinson co-parents twin sons, organizes parents for advocacy purposes, writes syndicated columns, mentors kids, runs a few races, and investigates missing socks. Follow her on Twitter: @cdurkinrobinson. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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