With the statement I’m about to make, I know the onslaught on (what potentially used to be) my inbox will begin. No matter what, here goes: I’m not offended by the confederate flag.
There. I said it. Come at me, bro. But, before you do, let me put some context to those currently acrid words.
First, I’m not a racist by any stretch, nor am I a bigot (and there is a difference). I don’t have a race-phobia and I’m not white-centric. In fact, my statement about the confederate flag has little to do with race. The confederate flag doesn’t offend me because it’s the wrong thing to be offended by. It’s too limited in scope; it’s a scapegoat, for lack of a better word. If the confederate flag offends us because of the slavery and oppression that it is purported to symbolize, then so much more should offend us.
George Washington should offend us. At it’s peak, President Washington’s Mount Vernon housed over 300 slaves, and Washington had personally owned them from the time he was the ripe old age of eleven (my youngest daughter’s age, for Christ’s sake). While he was quietly opposed to slavery, he never spoke out loud against it. The President of our nation, who admitted in letters that he disliked slavery, didn’t have the balls to stand up publicly against it. That should offend us.
The framers of the Declaration of Independence should offend us. Thomas Jefferson, while a slave owner his whole life, claimed to hate slavery. In his first draft of the Declaration of Independence, he called slave trade the “execrable [repulsive] commerce” and wrote a passage in the Declaration calling for slavery’s end. But, thanks to traditionalist douchebags…er…I mean delegates from Georgia and South Carolina, and greedy business leaders from the North, Jefferson’s words were deleted from that defining document. That should offend us.
New York City should offend us. During the founding of our nation, through the Revolutionary War and on into the Civil War, New York City was host to the largest slave population outside of Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, at its most prolific point, over 35% of the total population of New York was African slaves (today, blacks only make up about 19% of New York City’s population); and that’s not including the unaccounted for slaves who were transported and unloaded “illegally,” at the time. That should offend us.
Barack Obama should offend us. In his 2007 campaign for president, Obama proudly admitted that he is the descendant of slave owners. He touted that his great-great-great-great grandfather had owned slaves, as did his great-great-great-great-great grandmother. It was called “a true measure of progress” that the descendant of slave owners would be able to rise to the presidency of the United States. He used this ancestral slave ownership as an advantage to his becoming president. In light of the current discourse, that should offend us.
There is so much more we should be offended by than a flag, and we’ve had so many more historical opportunities to be offended. For good or for bad, we connect sentimentally and passionately to pieces of cloth and stone monuments. But, when we become so enamored with or so incensed by inanimate objects that those objects themselves cause us to hate one another, and distract us from what we should be fighting for together, that should offend us.