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“They Really, Really, Really Don’t Get It”: ‘Heritage Not Hate’? Sorry, White South, They Go Together

On the grass where I sat and played with my friends and family in the Atlanta suburbs, the second Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915. At the time I was none the wiser.

As a child, I would regularly retreat with my family and friends to the comfort of Stone Mountain Park to escape the city life. We’d climb the gigantic quartz rock mountain, and we’d lounge on the grass and gaze at the carvings of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis on the mountain’s face. I still have fond memories of watching the celebrated laser show held every Fourth of July at this Southern Mount Rushmore. It was an event that everyone wanted to attend: The fireworks are supposedly the best in the state!

Over the weekend, a pro-Confederate Flag rally was held at Stone Mountain Park and promoted the slogan “Heritage not Hate.” Yet despite the organizer’s best efforts, hatred showed up. A KKK member decided to attend and spew his racist bile, and the pro-Confederate Flag supporters promptly booed him and told him to leave. Likewise, anti-Confederate Flag supporters desecrated the flag, and the “Heritage not Hate” crowd asked them to leave or instructed other supporters to ignore them. Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, an African American, even attended the event with the intent of learning more about the perspectives and values of some of his constituents.

“It challenges me to have a deeper appreciation for people who think differently than I,” said Johnson, as you hear someone yell “racist” in the background of the video. “We may think differently, but as long as we are not hating on each other I think we’re good.”

There were no arrests, and most in attendance said that the event was more peaceful than they anticipated. Yet the relative tranquility is nothing that merits excessive celebration. First of all, a quick browse through Facebook for Confederate Flag rallies will lead the visitor to a volume of hatred and bigotry that we would hope was confined to the past. But second, we’ve already condoned and accepted organized violence and hatred, as long as white Americans are the source, and this is a serious problem.

However, if progress is our aim, we should examine the inherently (yet possibly unintended) oppressive nature of the “Heritage not Hate” message.

The choice of Stone Mountain as the venue shows how celebrating “Heritage not Hate” is impossible. In 1915 the second Ku Klux Klan was founded at Stone Mountain. (The first Klan was founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, by veterans of the Confederate Army and existed until 1870, when the federal government passed the Force Acts, which protected African-American liberties, and suppressed Klan activities.) A year later the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) began carving Jackson, Lee, and Davis on the face of the mountain. The UDC’s primary objective may have been to celebrate their forefathers, but to believe now that these women did not hold bigoted beliefs that would be frowned upon today is delusional. Southern heritage and hatred are so interwoven that entertaining the idea that the two can be separated borders on lunacy.

This rally purported that within the Southern context, heritage and hate can be separated, and that collectively we can celebrate a history of white supremacy while ignoring that history’s hatred of non-whites. There is no evidence that this argument holds any water, and it only represents a sad attempt at saving face and perpetuating a false, idyllic narrative of constant white ascension in the United States.

Yet the most offensive aspect of the “Heritage not Hate” argument is how it continues the social standard of limiting Southern black voices with the attempt of reducing us to irrelevancy. Southern culture arose when black Americans were not considered people, and the social norm has always been one in which blacks have had limited agency over their lives. This argument sustains this structure because a Southern heritage must remain about white existence, and nothing else.

I’m not white, and I am as Southern as they come, and in no way does my heritage incorporate a support of white supremacy, racism, or the purity of white existence. My family’s presence in the South has been documented to the late 1700s. I’m from Georgia, my mother’s family is from Charleston, South Carolina—I’ve discussed this ancestry in a previous Daily Beast piece—and my father’s family is from Alabama, but we know his ancestors were bought in Savannah, Georgia.

My family’s Southern heritage more closely echoes the shooting at Emanuel AME Church and the recent vandalism at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—where Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized and became co-pastor—where four Confederate battle flags were found on Thursday.

“This is the same as placing a swastika on the campus of a Jewish temple. Whatever the message was, clearly is not about heritage, but about hate,” said Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. “It was disturbing and sickening, but unfortunately not terribly surprising. We’ve seen this kind of ugliness before.”

This is the Southern heritage that black Americans are acquainted with, but this perspective is missing in the “Heritage not Hate” argument. This absence perpetuates the continuation of a society and a narrative where black lives and black voices hold no agency and are pushed to the borders of irrelevancy. They encourage our expunging from the past and the present.

Southern black congressmen are welcomed to attend “Heritage not Hate” rallies at the location of the second founding of the KKK, but the idea is that they have an obligation to learn about the struggles and complexity of whiteness in the South. There is an assumption that no one in attendance wants to hear the narrative of a black Southerner because it is known that this story will contradict and erode the foundations of the rally and the entire movement.

I’m black and a Southerner and my heritage is one filled with hate—and not a hatred that emanates from my family. The hatred could have originated from the Confederacy, the KKK, and/or nondescript white Southerners who attacked and vandalized churches, spewed racial epithets, murdered black Americans or prevented us from finding housing and employment. All of these actions are spawned from the same notion of white supremacy, but with different names. They are constantly interwoven and inseparable from one another. This is not a discussion about semantics, but one about a society that has condoned hatred, terror, and black irrelevancy.

I’m not irrelevant. I do not terrorize those who are different than I am, and I do not hate the South, despite the horrors of Southern life inflicted upon black Americans. I’m as Southern as they come regardless of how comfortable that makes me feel.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, August 5, 2015

August 6, 2015 - Posted by | African Americans, Confederate Flag, Racism | , , , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. Here’s a thought for any who hold strong feelings and are passionate about slavery, racism, and hatred. Making people put away flags, or monuments, or symbols simply will not change the hatred that some hold in their hearts. I believe in a great God who works in us to turn our sufferings around to be used for the good of others. Why not take those passions and use them to help people who are enslaved today? There are many great organizations who need help i.e. https://www.tinyhands.org/.

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    Comment by Stephanie | August 11, 2015 | Reply

  2. I’m not from the south, but have been living here for a little over a year. I don’t understand why the confederate flag was not put away when the war was lost, southern pride does seem to run pretty deep. Many southerners from that generation were very racist, but I saw that outside of the south in my grandparents generation as well. Ultimately, flags aren’t what makes people racist, and the absence of the flag is not going to change anything. Racial tensions seem to be growing in this country and it’s coming from both sides. Mean people are mean people, unfortunately, no matter how much progress we seem to be making as human beings, we really haven’t come as far as we think we have.

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    Comment by Stephanie | August 9, 2015 | Reply

    • I certainly understand your points. I grew up in the South & couldn’t wait to leave after High School. Racism is deep and structured in the South, more so than in any other areas of the country. It is also very much generational. More and more school districts are excluding certain disgraceful aspects of the country’s history from history books.The Confederate flag is the one thing that galvanizes people on both sides. The Civil War was fought and thus lost for the wrong cause…slavery. Some people have yet to get past that loss as, to them, it is the embodiment of their supremacy, white supremacy. The flag represents that same ideology to many even today. It is in no way about heritage. For South Carolina or any other state, supposedly representative of all its people, to fly that flag anywhere on the capital grounds is completely unacceptable. It is a divisive instrument of ‘in your face’ supremacy. If someone desires to fly it on their front lawn or have it flapping in the breeze on the back of their pickup truck, so be it. It tells me who you are and what you stand for. I’m OK with that, but I am not OK with it flying over the seat of government in our Democracy.

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      Comment by raemd95 | August 9, 2015 | Reply

      • I understand what you are saying, but not all flag wavers are racist white supremacists, I personally know some that simply are not confederate flag waving racists, they are very proud of being southern though which to me is a whole different topic of discussion. I can’t call all southern confederate flag wavers racist any more than I can stigmatize all black people as being uncivil looters. Both races have played a part in racism, blacks did play a part in the enslavement of their own people. Both black and white are now stirring up racial tensions. This is not a one sided problem, it’s a human problem.

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        Comment by Stephanie | August 10, 2015

      • Slavery was the most significant reason – by far – for the southern states succeeding. Were “state rights” also an issue? Sure, they were a big issue – the southern states wanted their “state right” to own slaves. Plain and simple, slavery was the cornerstone for the succession. This fact cannot be ignored. The Confederate Flag didn’t exist before the succession. It was created during the war, specifically to represent southern military units, who, keep in mind, were fighting primarily to uphold their “state rights” to own slaves. Were they also fighting for other things? Sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that slavery was at the top of the list – maybe not for every single individual, but the confederacy as a whole. So if you support the confederate flag, what are you really supporting? Are you completely ignoring when, and why, it was created and substituting what it really represents with your own reasons? You’re entitled to support the flag based on what it means to you as an individual, and it doesn’t necessarily make you as an individual racist, but you can’t ignore that the flag’s origin is a symbol for military units who fought a war to support slavery. If you simply want to show “southern pride” or your heritage, why not choose something that’s not so deeply rooted to slavery supporters? It is a symbol of hate and racism, and further, of treason. As if that wasn’t enough, hate groups around the world have co-opted it. Those who defend the Confederate flag say that it’s representative of a way of life. To that I say, “Yes. A way of life for generations of white people buying and selling human beings, beating, starving, raping and working them to death for no wages and no voice. Similarily, such degrading offenses have occurred in numerous countries around the world. Look at the history of the Indian Subcontinent. Even today, there are several million bonded laborers in India. Although all forms of slavery have been illegal in China since 1910, the practice still exists through illegal trafficking. Children of poor families are being sold by their families to wealthy homes to be treated as future brides, servants or slaves. Yes, it’s a human problem but that does not mean we have to accept it. Finally, following secession in March 1861, Alexander H. Stephens, the Confederate Vice President, forcefully set out the reasons for secession and the creation of the Confederacy in his famous Conerstone Speech, where he tied slavery to race, making clear that the conerstone of the Confederacy was not merely chattel slavery, but also on the assumption of the racial and ethnic superiority of the ruling class and the utter inferiority and subordination of Blacks. I do not believe that the resurgence of these tensions is accidental. They became apparent on the day of the Inauguration of the current occupant of the White House. The bottom line is clear.

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        Comment by raemd95 | August 10, 2015

      • I can tell that this is something you are very passionate about. But, here’s what I can tell you from what I am seeing going on around me in small town southern USA, they don’t care what you think about their flag, they don’t care whether you condone it or not. They have your views, you have yours. Your views are stirring the pot, fueling the fire, and fanning the flames because you want to force them into giving something up that they are unwilling to give up. Forcing people to do things causes rebellion. Comparing flag the flag waving southerner of today, who is not enslaving anyone, to a current, modern day person who enslaves others is short sided. You are fighting against something that happened in the past that needs to be dead and buried. The only thing that’s going to change people is the Grace of God. Nathan Bedford Forrest was changed by his Christian conversion from cold hearted, slave trading, KKK member into a civil rights activist and supporter of blacks. Yes, it is a human problem,that needs to be redirected to helping those who are currently being enslaved rather than to those who are merely offended by a flag.
        http://www.amazon.com/Nathan-Bedford-Forrests-Redemption-Kastler/dp/1589808347

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        Comment by Stephanie | August 11, 2015

      • Slavery is slavery, whether it happened yesterday or is happening today. Facts do not go away simply because you ignore them. You are welcome to believe what you must, I choose to believe in facts. I would also include Nathan Forrest with those other great emancipators, David Duke, George Wallace and Lester Maddox.

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        Comment by raemd95 | August 11, 2015

      • I’m not implying anything should be ignored. I believe in showing Grace to people who don’t deserve it.

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        Comment by Stephanie | August 11, 2015

      • Understood. Appreciate your input.

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        Comment by raemd95 | August 11, 2015

      • God Bless!

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        Comment by Stephanie | August 11, 2015

      • And you as well!

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        Comment by raemd95 | August 11, 2015

  3. Being raised in the south where we were taught as whites to glorify the south, I am bemused that states would hold dear a flag which represents a rebellion against the United States of America. Further, the flag was used as the banner of Jim Crow which is signified in the song Strange Fruit sung by Billie Holiday which equates the dead black bodies swinging in the trees as strange fruit. White southerners can celebrate heritage and deceased ancestors without using that flag. And, for those who believe God ordained our constitution, please answer this question. If God were to choose sides, which side would He have picked – the one that stood for freedom or the one that owned slaves?

    Like

    Comment by btg5885 | August 6, 2015 | Reply

    • I’m bemused that Americans hold dear a flag which represents rebellion against Him (Romans 13). God would not choose either. God chooses those from all tribes, tongues, and nations who come to him in repentance.

      Like

      Comment by Stephanie | August 9, 2015 | Reply


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