About this Blog

The title of this blog, "I'm About to do My Thing," was inspired by Jill Scott's introduction to her poem "The Thickness" from her live album Experience: Jill Scott 826+. In this intro, she warns that the content to follow is "real" and proceeds to deliver a beautiful message about self-esteem in young black girls, what can influence and damage that self-esteem, and the entire village's responsibility--"it takes a village"--to elevate its children.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Confederate Flags and Consumers

I know. I've been gone for a minute, and I've missed writing my ideas down. As an idea magnet, I've struggled with balancing my time as a working mommy to a 1-year-old (post forthcoming about Mini Mo's debut into toddlerhood!) and a now-16-year-old and blogging. To those who have the balance down, give me tips!

As for today's post, I need to make it clear that I am a native Alabamian. Therefore, Confederate flags are as common to me as sweet tea and hearing/saying, "y'all." From t-shirts and jackets to vehicular vanity plates and full-sized flags in front of buildings, Confederate flags are ubiquitous. Hey, even the Alabama State Flag itself incorporates the Confederate Flag.

However, it's the flag I noticed in front of a business site for a local marble and granite shop and a trailer seller that raised questions for me, one in particular: What is this flag supposed to communicate to a potential customer?

I don't know which business is sporting this flag or who owns it, but in pondering this question, I thought about what that flag connotes in general, for a wide range of people:
  1. For many black people I know, it means racism, period, and calls to mind lynch mobs, white hoods, and burning crosses.
  2. For other people I know, it means Southern pride and heritage and recalls a history of states defending their rights. (Rights to what? That's debatable, kinda.) The Alabama state motto is Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere, Latin for "We dare to defend [or to maintain] our rights."
There may be other connotations, but these are the two most common, in my experience. Yet, there are entities today, classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), that use this flag to represent their causes as well.

Kirk Lyons at neo-Confederate rally
Kirk Lyons marches at a 2003 neo-Confederate rally in Richmond, Va.
Check out the interesting participant on the right side of the photo.
Courtesy of splcenter.org
A prominent one is the League of the South (LS), identified by the SPLC as a Neo-Confederate organization. Check out some sentiments from LS members, as reported on the SPLC's website within its "Intelligence Files":
“Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery. Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?”— Jack Kershaw, League of the South board member, 1998
“[T]he Southern League supports a return to a political and social system based on kith and kin rather than an impersonal state wedded to the idea of the universal rights of man. At its core is a European population.”— Michael Hill, essay on League of the South website, 2000 
Now, these statements from LS  members seem to contradict this statement from the LS's official website, DixieNet.org, on its FAQ page:

Q:What is the LS position regarding blacks in the South?
A: The LS disavows a spirit of malice and extends an offer of good will and cooperation to Southern blacks in areas where we can work together as Christians to make life better for all people in the South. We affirm that, while historically the interests of Southern blacks and whites have been in part antagonistic, true Constitutional government would provide protection to all law-abiding citizens — not just to government-sponsored victim groups.
These few examples illustrate, to me, that the placing of a Confederate flag in front of a business location sends mixed signals. Does the owner anticipate only certain kinds of clientele? Should the potential customer interpret the flag's presence to mean only "Southern pride" or something else? I don't have the answers, but I bet many folks find it alienating. Given our state's history, I'd be inclined to look elsewhere for my granite countertop or trailer. What does the Confederate flag mean to you?