A Southerner’s Reaction To Bree Newsome’s Removal Of The Confederate Flag

July 1, 2015  |  

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As a kid growing up in Georgia, I spent plenty of long summer days at Stone Mountain Park with my family and friends. The iconic scenic park houses a number of fun outdoor activities, like canoeing, walking and hiking trails, and golfing. However, that beautiful, family-friendly park also has an ugly, segregated past.

For those who aren’t aware, Stone Mountain is also the home of the second Ku Klux Klan. It acted as a grounds where cross burnings and killings occurred and where Confederate flags still wave to this day. The running joke as a kid was that you should leave the park before nightfall because you didn’t want the KKK to find you. You would’ve thought we were living before the civil rights movement talking such nonsense. Still, there was a hint of truth to it. While my friends laughed and teased about such a “joke,” I never found it comical.

The first time I saw a Confederate flag waving and actually questioned its presence was during a visit to that same exact park a few years back. I knew they had flags waving, but I never realized the extent. Living in Georgia, I was no stranger to the Confederate flag. I had seen them plastered on the backs of pickup trucks, waving outside of people’s homes (in rural areas), and in school textbooks, but never waving in a public and nationally recognized place. In addition to the mountain housing such a destructive symbol of white supremacy, I noticed that the massive granite boulder present in the park pays homage to several Confederate leaders. Their images are carved along its front side, and multiple Confederate flags wave at its base. As many times as I had been to this place, I never paid attention to what was staring right at me: a nod to hatred. I knew about the flag but could never quite comprehend why it was significant enough to be still hanging.

So when I heard the news of Bree Newsome’s courageous climb to victory I had to applaud her. The 30-year-old activist and educator stirred up the nation after removing the Confederate flag from outside South Carolina’s Statehouse. After Dylann Roof’s terrorist actions at Emanuel AME Church, someone had to take a stand. Newsome’s effort was timely, non-violent and done for an awe-inspiring reason, unlike Roof’s deadly actions.

Recently, Newsome spoke out about her decision to pull down the flag while talking to the Blue Nation Review:

“You see, I know my history and my heritage. The Confederacy is neither the only legacy of the south nor an admirable one. The southern heritage I embrace is the legacy of a people unbowed by racial oppression.”

I firmly agree with Newsome’s statement. And while I don’t want to see the flag waving proudly, I do believe that we all should know the history of the Confederate flag. We can take it down, but we can’t erase it and what it stands for.

To me, the flag is a pure symbol of hate against Blacks in particular. It reminds us of the journey to freedom our ancestors fought for and our continued quest for racial equality every day. Does its presence offend me? Yes. Does it intimidate me? No. But as a Black individual in this world I wholeheartedly believe that you should be able to identify that flag and know its meaning. You shouldn’t be rummaging through a Google search and checking listicles for a lackluster breakdown that only feeds you the information they want you to know. That’s lazy. Even with the recent occurrences of cultural appropriation we see in media, people are still trying to blur the lines of our history. Open your eyes. The hate and robbery of our history is all around us. Although the Black experience is one of plight and heavy race relations, I believe everyone should know the past no matter how disturbing. If we don’t educate ourselves, who will?

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