Race, my Liberalness, and that Goddamn Flag

okay folks, i’m a racist. let’s get that the fuck out of the way first thing.
i fight those impulses when i recognize them, i actively work not to be, but i am.
i was raised in Central Texas in the ’60’s and ’70’s. although i never saw it in use as other than a storeroom, i often walked by the ‘colored’ restroom at a local filling station.
in Smithville, in 1966, i was part of the second integrated class coming up through the school system. my, my, weren’t we advanced and civilized? hell no.
one of our local doctors (we had two!) named J.W. Thomas (who delivered me and was our family doctor), went before the Smithville School Board in, i believe, 1964 and said (i’m paraphrasing) “desegregation is coming. there’s no stopping it. we can do it slowly, class by class, at our own pace, and minimize tensions, or we can wait for the Federal government to make us do it all at once. those are the two choices we have. there isn’t a choice where we do not desegregate our schools”, and in an exceedingly rare show of wisdom, the School Board listened to him. the 1st grade class of 1965 was the first class to be integregated, mine in ’66, therefore, the second.
i went to school with black kids all my life. some of them were as smart or smarter than me, some weren’t. some were good kids, some were shitheads, some enjoyed using their relative different-ness to make other students uncomfortable or afraid, others were just trying to get along.
same as any other kids i know.
so when my grandfather, the man who served as my ‘daddy’ told me the only black people who ever amounted to anything did so because of white blood in their ancestry, i knew better. it was the first crack in the pedestal i had placed him upon.
in Smithville, the “black part of town” was across the tracks, in an area called “Bunte-town”, because a lot of it was owned by the Bunte family. (that’s pronounced “Bunny”, by the way, leading to “Bunnytown”, most definitely used in a racial context).
while the large groups of black kids walking from their side of town to school used to threaten smaller groups of white kids, and walk down the middle of the street, refusing to move out of the way for cars, white kids used to drive into Bunnytown at all hours of the night on the narrow, dirt streets, shouting racial epithets; running over (mostly) chickens in yards and along the roadsides; catching dog’s heads in the door of the car as they chased them and dragging them; throwing rocks, bottles, and shit.
I did all of those things.
i’m not proud of it now, i wasn’t proud of it then. it was, for the most part, action born of peer pressure, but that doesn’t change the fact i willingly chose to do all that, for whatever reason, none of which is an excuse.
i went to school with black children, but none of them were really my friend. however, the single best teacher i ever had, and a man who was my friend, was Mr. Sampson, a black man. i loved him dearly.
sometimes, at the end of the day, you tally up your behavior and performance and realize you’re just as human as everybody else, for good and ill.

i have stepped on my dick, as a liberal, so many times i shouldn’t be able to feel it when i do so anymore, and a lot of that dick-stepping involved empathizing with other groups of people, such as blacks, Hispanics, gays… come to think of it, anyone who wasn’t a white CIS hetero male. and i’ve suffered my bouts of liberal guilt and white shame in angst-ridden explorations of who and what i am and why and other such navel-gazing. it’s all bullshit, you see, because at the end of the day, it’s simply easier, and safer, to operate by the Golden Rule, and when you find yourself doing otherwise, stop, and return your focus to the knowledge we’re all people and we all deserve to be treated with decency, compassion, and, initially, a basic level of respect. if, after that initial period, we prove ourselves unworthy of the respect, that’s another thing, but it still leaves decency and compassion, due to all, across the board, no matter what. for me, those should be immutable.
it’s made being a liberal much easier for me, as i grow older. and on the other issue, i never stop trying to empathize, and i remain sure i haven’t gotten it right yet. but hopefully i’ve cut my dick-stompin’ percentage down.

i grew up LOVING to go to Six Flags Over Texas, and yeah, one of those was the Confederate flag, but far more important to me as a young Texan Yellow-Dawg Democrat was the flag of the Republic of Texas. we were our own nation once, and that’s always been more important to me than our membership in a band of traitors and rebels. so no, the Stars and Bars hold no special place in my heart, but while i looked at that particular flag as just a part of history, like the Spanish, French, Mexican, and American flags, it wasn’t until i was in my thirties, if i’m remembering correctly, that i began to understand its significance to blacks. it wasn’t a flag just like all those others for them. it had a special and horrible place in their history. (yeah, i knew “A”, and i knew “B”, but i’d never put them together to get “C”).
and as long as i could look at it as a purely historical relic, i was fine with it. i grew up, even at my  most racist, with far more sympathy for the Northern than the Southern cause, and so, in an amazing lack of comprehension, never ‘felt’ it as a sign of a rebellion yet to be put down. it was a sign of redneck, and therefore i considered pride in the Confederate flag to be a general sign of ignorance, and probably inbreeding… and white trailer trash.
but i’ve known better for quite a while now, now i study the American Civil War as the first part of an ongoing struggle to decide the soul of our nation. and in spite of a black man in the White House, it’s a struggle i can’t help but feel we’re losing.

so yeah, let’s burn the goddamned thing, make its only proper place a museum. let’s treat it as what it is – a sign of oppression, rebellion, insurrection, a symbol for traitors, enemies of our country. i still won’t – quite – say it should be as vile a symbol as the Nazi swastika, but it doesn’t miss by much.

(of course, to be fair, given what’s been done under its banner, i often feel the American flag deserves burning and being put in a museum.)
(as a side note, according to family legend, our only memorable part in the Civil War was an ancestor who rode with, among others, the James brothers, stealing horses  and selling them to whomever, North or South, had the money to pay. there you have it, My Family In The Civil War – equal opportunity horse thieves and war profiteers.)

okay y’all, my thoughts as of today.

 

listening to: the Furry Four freak out at moth farts
mood: confessional

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