Reflections on MLK Day

I am going to keep this reflection short and [sour]. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Many of my students recognize it as a “holiday.” One of many that gets them out of the classroom. For many of the teachers, it is more of the same. MLK Day is a bit of a reprieve for many. Although I still had to go to the school for wrestling practice, I was able to sleep late, get some shopping done and clean up the house a little bit. While driving down the road from the school to Costco, I saw the famous banner of the Confederate soldier. It was flying in the back of a pick-up truck, adjacent to a United States flag.

Not the actual truck. I try to abide by the hands free laws
Not the actual truck. I try to abide by the hands free laws

For some reason, the importance of the day snapped back into perspective. It made me wonder, “Why that flag on this day?”

Defenders of the flag cry the ancient moniker all too often, “Heritage, not Hate.” Perhaps this unknown driver was simply driving with the flags, the same as he does everyday. I’ve never seen that truck before. I did not see it today. I cannot tell you if the flags fly everyday, or if he just flew them for that day in particular. I truly hope that he did not remember it was MLK Day; but something tells me I’m naive about that. I’ve commented several times on the Confederate Battle Flag. More times than I care to count. It is becoming a useless exercise in repetition. Yet I know the flag’s history. I know its status as a soldier’s flag; but I also know its evolution and its place as a rallying cry against integration. Today, some people intend to white wash the flag of its turbulent history. They fly the flag, neglecting to mention its racist past, absolving it from its use in the Civil Rights era, and pointing to the flaws of the United States Flag. These people fly the flag, in front of people who suffered under its shadow.

White Youth Holding Confederate Flag at MarchI get that many “Southern Heritage” advocates will not be swayed. I understand that many will argue that their ancestor fought under that flag. That the flag is a soldier’s flag. That their ancestors cannot be held accountable for the actions of racists in the 1950s and 1960s. As a southerner, I also understand that people in the South do not like being told what to do. Not too long ago, when this blog was just getting started, I wrote a post dealing with the display of the flag. In that post I added this statement:

…the Nazis totally ripped off the Hindus. The difference is, you don’t see many Hindus flying their symbol as sixty foot banners near the interstate or putting them on t-shirts. It might have something to do with six million people dying but that’s just a guess. Perhaps the key is consideration. Several hundred thousand people were in bondage, and perhaps view that flag as a chain holding them down. So many were hurt, killed, and not allowed freedoms in the 20th century and most of them recognize the flag as a reminder of that. Consideration is the key word of the day.

There are 363 days until the next MLK Day. Perhaps in 2015, we can consider the actions of others and their fight for acceptance.

5 thoughts on “Reflections on MLK Day

  1. Coming from the heart, nice and very appropriate post.

    Coming from the mind, do you think people can reasonably and rightfully display signs, symbols, and flags if they are aware of the said item’s history- good and bad? For an example, if you addressed to someone about their display of the Confederate flag, and they replied something on the lines of, “I am aware of the contemporary and recent negative use of this flag, but I choose to display it in the memory of its original founding: the ideals of the average Confederate soldier”, how would you respond to that?

    1. I was thinking about a list of retorts I might ask. The most obvious being “What exactly were the ideals of the average Confederate soldier?”

      But thinking about it, that sort of response is often cooked up; The Southern Heritage advocates will often say that “rednecks,” or “racist, white supremacists, etc.” flew the flag in a negative context and the heritage advocates are not. People like that are very confrontational with the flag, caring little for consideration. More often than not, the Southern Heritage crowd is more closed minded about the issues as well.

    2. Bryant, I don’t know if this is a useful not. If I wrong someone, even and especially unintentionally I apologize. If I say or do something hurtful or offensive to someone — even if I had good intentions to begin with, I apologize. If my intention requires a long ass explanation and a bunch of justifications, then it’s probably the wrong thing to do.

      I just find that to pick and continue to push this as somehow a great symbol of southern heritage or like it’s somehow the only symbol is silly. It’s like having historical tunnel vision.

      There are so many other things to laud about the South. Can we pick something that allows us to highlight its great history and its many accomplishments without having to always turn to one of the darkest times in our history to either justify or fight about it further?

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