So I saw a Confederate battle flag hanging on my carpenter’s wall, and the tenor of the entire exchange, relationship, changed. What must this man think of us? He knew we were Black and coming to his home but offered no caution horse. My mind went to the fullest extent of dread and loathing. Not without reason though.
The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of inhumanity, violence, and racism, for I have grown up seeing countless images of that symbol proudly displayed behind the strange fruit of Black bodies hanging from poplar trees, on the concrete streets of White supremacist marches, and on vehicles driving by hurling the n-word. In that moment, just by seeing that symbol, the man who built the hub of my home was reduced to an avatar of that hate.
Racism forces us to sacrifice humanity, of others and ourselves. Interpersonally, we all are responsible for easing our racial tensions and embracing other’s humanity. Hopefully, that helps us understand how policies and social practices play out for others, which are more challenging forms of racism.
It is fine to choose any symbol for commemoration, but once that choice is made you can’t simply edit the symbol’s ills and history. Therefore, if you have that symbol you should be prepared to let others know your intention while appreciating why there will be apprehension.
Simultaneously, it takes dialogue to understand a person’s reasoning for displaying that symbol. On both sides that requires bravery, humility, and graciousness. It was not my responsibility to say something, nor his. It was ours. Otherwise, all we do is continuously recreate a broken wheel of society.
I am Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective.