Friday, June 26, 2015

The Confederate Flag And Our Stunted Spiritual Growth

Over the time I have been writing these posts, I have often received comments from readers that said something to the effect that “I understand some of my perceptions color my ‘reality.’ But some don’t. How else can I explain how many, many others perceive as I do?” Those of you who have read me for a while will remember the several times I have discussed “race consciousness.” “Race” in this context refers to the human race – not ethnicity or skin color. Race consciousness is a learned set of beliefs that do, in fact, determine how we as a human race interpret what our physical eyes see.
The current controversy concerning the Confederate flag provides a great example of this. The flag’s history, quite misunderstood and reinvented, has defined our perceptions of it. History, as stated over and over, has repeated that reinvention by saying it is all about the South’s heritage, honor and ancestry. Actual history tells a different story – one that we are hesitant to talk about.
Actual history tells us the story of how the flag has become a symbol of rebellion. Initially, against the federal government over slavery and the firm belief that people of color are inherently inferior to white people of European descent. This rebellion led to the Civil War and the flag was the battle flag of General R. E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. That flag then became a symbol of the rebellion against the equality of the races (1880 – 1950) that led to the Jim Crow laws in the south legalizing segregation.  Finally, in 1948 it became a symbol against the forced end to Jim Crow – especially school integration, equal use of facilities (bathrooms, water fountains, front doors, restaurants, etc.) and voting rights.
This latest rebellion began when State Senator Strom Thurmond (SC) used the flag as he ran for president under a segregation platform in opposition to Harry Truman’s desegregation of the military following World War Two. It was raised again in opposition to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared “separate but equal” schools to be unconstitutional. This decision also was seen as the beginning of the dismantling of all Jim Crow laws in the South. This was the time (1950s) when southern states began flying the flag on their State Houses and monuments. This theme of rebellion against government was quickly cast as a State’s Right issue when it was all about protecting the belief in white supremacy (or colored inferiority). This issue of the equality of African –American citizens has been picked up by all forms of white supremacy and/or quasi-military groups as well as by bigoted lone wolfs – all of whom still preach the gospel of the inferiority of people of color.
This discussion seems to be very complicated because we are used to sweeping very unpleasant issues under the rug and pretending they don’t exist. I heard one black law professor at Georgetown (DC) University Law School tell a caller, who had stated the flag honored her ancestors, many of whom died in the Civil War, the following: [This is my paraphrase of his statement] “If your ancestors had prevailed, I would not be a professor of law at a major university. I would still be considered property. My wife and children would still be considered property – perhaps your property – to use or dispose of as you determined necessary. So, I do not honor your ancestors.
An ugly truth.
The history of the Confederate flag – the battle flag of Robert E. Lee – is an ugly history. It’s a symbol of rebellion and a symbol of the belief in white supremacy. So, we generally do not like to talk about it – except to spin its history to sound more palatable: Honor; Ancestry; Heritage; State Rights. To believe that reinvented history stunts our personal growth.
Since we don’t like to look ugliness in the face, we turn our heads and in that silence of politeness this reinvented history of the flag is all we’ve heard for the past 60+ years. That’s three generations. And that’s enough time for us to all begin actually believing this reinvented history as fact – when it isn’t.
This is how “race consciousness” begins. This is how it spreads. This is what it can look like.  This is why understanding the truth of history, sharing it, and speaking it becomes exceptionally important. Societal growth as well as our personal spiritual growth depends on the truth, as best we can define it. Without it our spiritual growth is stunted.
The South fought the Union for the right of states to continue treating people of color as property. They lost. They tried to maintain the right of states to legalize segregation. They lost. They are still trying to enforce “tradition” that favors the concepts of white supremacy. They are losing that fight as well.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#4 June 2015

Copyright 2015

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