A sordid reminder of oppression

Photo of William T. Robinson Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

I am proud to be a resident of the city of Nashville and the state of Tennessee. I accept the history of Tennessee along with many of its bordering southern states that at one time helped make up the Confederacy. But one must not be blind to the fact that the history of the Confederacy as well as the country as a whole is often one of shame and ugliness for a great many of its citizens—especially as it relates to the treatment of African Americans who were at one time slaves in predominately southern states.

The pain, suffering, and dehumanization that many of these slaves were subjected to is indescribable and unparalleled. However, American history books have tried to dilute these circumstances to pacify the consciousness of the offspring of the oppressors. But no amount of rationalization or denial can remove the scars and ramifications that are systematically engrained because of America’s racist past—economically, socially and politically. Even today, it is undeniably painful and horrific for some African Americans—conjuring up memories of unmerciful human bondage, lashings, and hanging for those openly opposing this treatment and trying to escape to freedom. It should not be hard to understand why people of African American descent are uncomfortable and even outraged when they see their White counterparts donning or exhibiting the Confederate flag as if it were an object to be idolized and respected. Many Blacks feel it is the epitome of disrespect and racism, representing White supremacy. There is no justification or rationalization that can make displaying the Confederate flag in public an honorable exercise. If our history were correctly taught, it would make people aware of the pain, hurt, and disrespect brought to the children of slaves. It would remind southerners of their ancestors’ sordid, shameful treatment of African Americans in the past.

For the most part, these public displays of the Confederate flag are done in rural countries, especially in East Tennessee in our state (ironically, since during the Civil War—East Tennessee was staunchly pro-Union). Displaying the Confederate flag is done with a sense of pride by its participants. The participants openly display the flag in the back windows of their trucks or wear articles of clothing highlighting the ‘stars and bars.’ Confederate flag supporters claim this is part of their heritage, and they have a right to honor and consecrate the memory of their ancestors.

Whether right or wrong, these participants can argue that they had nothing to do with what happened before they were born. However, they should use discretion in honoring the memory of their Confederate ancestors. Under the code of decency and ethics, one should be obligated to consider the feelings of others—especially when it comes to honoring those who inflicted such cruel and inhuman treatment on others during the practice of slavery. What happened happened, but wouldn’t it be appropriate to honor your ancestors privately within the family rather than publicly provoking horrific memories of a time in history Africans Americans would like to forget? Publicly flaunting the Confederate flag can be seen as a flagrant sign of disrespect. It shows insensitivity to the pain and suffering of Blacks. At worst, it indicates that you are a racist and don’t care.

For those who may say that African Americans are too sensitive, overacting and should get over the past—put yourself in their place. It is as if African Americans’ feelings don’t count. Rarely would one wear the swastika (Nazi symbol) in public, especially around Jews knowing the pain and hurt it would cause. Jews would be provoked and outraged. So why would anyone feel that African Americans would feel differently when confronted with having the Confederate flag flaunted in their faces? Participants in displays of ‘Confederate pride’ shouldn’t be surprised by a backlash from those who look at their actions as disrespectful and racist. We live in a country where one can express how he or she feels. However, sensitivity to the feelings of others should be taken into consideration.