For much of the last few months, the apartments just around the corner from my own on Milliron Street were having a new patio installed.
Each day, I would walk past the workers as they measured dimensions, laid concrete and completed the project. And while they were generally pleasant in my few interactions with them, one day I noticed a small emblem that immediately prejudiced my perception of these men.
Affixed to the back of the red pickup truck, mixed in with band logos and political bumper stickers, was a sticker of the Confederate flag.
Though it was wrong of me to attach the deep hatred of that flag I have to those construction workers, I couldn’t help but do so.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got no problem with Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. The Westboro Baptist Church? Let them protest. Neo-nazi groups? Let them rally.
But the baggage carried by the haunting blue “x” dotted with 13 white stars earns this emblem a special resentment in my heart.
You see, despite many attempts to change the legacy of the flag to one of Southern pride and states’ rights, those claims are as disingenuous as they are historically inaccurate.
The red, white and blue Dixie flag, which still flies above courthouses in many Southern states as well as above the South Carolina statehouse, represents not only the once-broad Southern support for slavery but also the decades following the Civil War when it was used as an intimidation tactic against blacks fighting Jim Crow laws, the separate but equal doctrine, segregation and institutionalized racism.
This flag does not represent “Heritage not Hate,” as one popular slogan suggests. Instead, it publicly boasts a heritage of hate.
There’s nothing wrong with regionalism. But, though uncomfortable to admit, much of this country’s and the South’s histories are nothing to be cherished.
For many black Americans the declaration that, “The South will rise again,” — which has become even more commonplace since April was declared Confederate History Month last year by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell — conjures images of Klan rallies, lynchings and voter intimidation.
Those deep-seeded racial tensions still exists in many areas of our diverse yet often divided country.
Just listen to the hate speech, masquerading as political disagreement, leveled at President Barack Obama, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and various other black politicians.
As I walked past that Confederate flag sticker on my way to class each morning, that tension penetrated my reality and became personal.
While we have the right to fly the Confederate flag in the same way we have the right to display swastikas and toss around homophobic slurs, the fact remains: The socially responsible choice is to refrain from exercising those rights.
No one should have to face the painful reminders of the injustices dealt to his or her ancestors, especially not in the name of pride.
Let’s celebrate those symbols that represent true American unity and pride, not prejudice.
Wesley Lowery is a junior studying journalism and a staff writer for The Post. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.