(this post was written in July 2015, shortly after the massacre in Charleston, SC)
Following the massacre of 9 innocent black people at the hands of a white supremacist, the media and the general public have chosen to channel their anger at the Confederate flag, which still flies in a number of southern states.
The Confederate flag represents a disgraceful time in Southern history. It should not be sanctioned by state or federal governments. It should be as stigmatized as the swastika.
However much I and most Americans disagree with what the Confederate flag represents, we should acknowledge that it is just that: a representation. A symbol.
Some of the “invisible flags” that perpetuate racism in our society include:
- A political picture painted by the right wing that inaccurately portrays blacks as “lazy, no good, government money suckers” i.e. the welfare queen
- The reality is that the black community has been dealt a pretty crappy hand. Income inequality, a problem that has proven to have numerous ill effects, impacts people of color disproportionately. Being, in many cities literally pushed into ghettos, has hindered the black community’s ability to thrive as some other communities have. Underfunded public schools, food deserts, high-crime neighborhoods, and, yes, racial stereotypes negatively impact the black community, yet white Americans find these issues too multifaceted to actually address.
- The devaluing of black and brown lives is a byproduct of the prison industrial complex, which is the result of our deeply-embedded white supremacist laws and policies. The War on Drugs has now been admitted to be about detaining Black Americans as a new form of social control. Mass incarceration continues to ruin the lives of countless men, women, and children.
- White America finds these conversations awkward, thus leading to a failure to act on- or adequately consider- these problems which we (meaning, comfortable, Smartphone-carrying white Americans) perpetuate.
The first step to solving these deep-seeded, systemic problems that lead to a 21-year-old white supremacist murdering a black congregation in a church is talking about and acknowledging these issues. Pretending we live in a colorblind world doesn’t help anyone. We should embrace our differences, and lift up those who have been knocked down. These are- after all- the values our country was founded on.