Food for thought. Just now, I noticed a Facebook post by some dude on a photography forum that I’m on. He was requesting feedback on an innocuous and frankly lovely picture of two girls in a meadow, but my eyes immediately jumped to his profile picture: an unapologetically bold Confederate flag. By the time I’d come across that post, there were already over 100 comments. Intrigued, I clicked to read.
As I’d expected, only a few of the comments actually related to his question about the photo of the two girls. Everyone else jumped on his “offensive” profile picture. One commentator noted: “… the confederate flag was used as a symbol of people who supported the institution of slavery. It also was and is STILL used to promote many racist organizations in the U.S. which makes it offensive to many people. You can’t display it and not expect many people to call you out on it. Freedom of speech is: the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint by the government. It doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with you and think you’re a bigot because of your choice to display the flag, or we can’t bitch about the fact that you use it as your avatar on social media. All free speech protects you from is the government making you take that down as your icon. Members of social media can still tell you that your choice of avatar is ignorant and offensive. And posting pics on a forum and asking for critique with that as your avatar is like going on American Idol dressed in a KKK robe wondering why the audience is booing you before you even get to sing.”
I ‘liked’ that comment. It made sense to me. I didn’t find the flag necessarily offensive, but it distracted me from critiquing his picture. I found myself wondering about his motivations. Then, I noticed that some of the commentators had profile pictures that they’d colored with Facebook’s ‘Celebrate Pride’ rainbow colors. And someone else called out one such commentator who had railed against the original poster’s poor choice of a profile picture: “xxx, you’ve got your flag in your profile pic, don’t judge yyy for his profile pic.”
Fair enough. Just because today, this week, the tide of opinion has turned against the Confederate flag and most everyone I know is celebrating SCOTUS’s ruling (finally, but big massive YAY!), doesn’t make one camp automatically wrong and the other right.
For the record, I get the argument that some people have made for their continued display of the Confederate flag. They had ancestors who had fought, bravely, in the Civil War, for what they had stood for. Not just to fight to keep slavery, because in the first place, that had not been the original intention of war. It’s too easy to paint everything in black and white; actual narratives do not typically fit so neatly into a box. HuffPost gave a more nuanced reason: “The war was fought over state’s rights and the limits of federal power in a union of states. The perceived threat to state autonomy became an existential one through the specific dispute over slavery. The issue was not slavery per se, but who decided whether slavery was acceptable, local institutions or a distant central government power. That distinction is not one of semantics: this question of local or federal control to permit or prohibit slavery as the country expanded west became increasingly acute in new states, eventually leading to that fateful artillery volley at Fort Sumter.”
It is most unfortunate that the KKK and other white supremacists have taken up that flag as their rallying symbol. But for all that, I think it a misstep for all these corporations to publicly pull sales of the flags from their stores, and especially for South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to demand the removal of the flag from statehouse grounds. I believe it’s a wrong response. A cop out response. Why not address the real reason why all those people died? Why not go after the banning of guns? Why instead attack those who respect the Confederate flag for own non-racist related reasons?
Anyway, some random thoughts on a otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon.