Here’s a solution the to sins of the South

trena

By Trena Elizabeth Morton, Guest blogger

My son will grow up seeing many different people dine at our dinner table.  He has bonus aunts and uncles who are white, Hispanic and Arab American . Some are  agnostic, Christian and gay. 

Most, and I do mean most of us, cannot say the same due to a pretty little word – preferences. Preferences are what wire us to buy homes in certain communities, love the same God yet attend church every Sunday with people who look just like us. Preferences cause us to date solely within our race,  hire this candidate over that one, and etc.  We are all entitled to our preferences. Those choices support the lifestyle and company we keep.  Just understand preferences breed natural biases that we are ALL guilty of.  No exceptions.

Oppression – prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.

Close your eyes and let that definition permeate your mind a bit — really get in tune with how that makes you feel. Open your eyes, remove everything you know about history and where you think this blog post is going.

Now close your eyes again, and feel this definition with a PURE heart.  Guess what?!? It is impossible for most of us, because it is something we have truly never encountered. 

Give that reality, we should refrain from speaking passionately about what we do not know and cannot feel.  We should and do not tell someone that has been raped to “erase it” and move on.  We should and do not tell loved ones grieving the life of their significant other that “it is the past, get over it”.

Even though there is truth in the power of not letting the painful events of your past control your future, it is not our job to tell others who have experienced such pain how to feel.  My walk of life suggests that life will grant you enough personal battles; fight your own as they are the only ones you will honestly 100% relate to.  I digress…

In addressing the controversy of removing Confederate landmarks, it is important to note observations from both sides of Dixie line.  Both sides are passionately defending preferences.  Fact.  Blinded by preferences, both sides have consistently chosen to speak on emotions they cannot connect with.  Fact.  Tis is true we cannot erase a past that oppressed blacks for far too many moons.  Tis is true that such past should not continuously plague the black community and curse generations.  Agreed.  However, understand these mementos do not memorialize history.  They are essentially constructed monuments of “Southern Pride.” A pride that celebrates those that fought and died in a war primarily to protect the right to own slaves.  If we are truly portraying history, then it should be universally understood why that is offensive to select citizens of this country.

In the spirit of being solution-oriented, here’s an idea to appease both sides.  The South can keep all the statues and monuments of its Confederate heroes.  Yay!!!  However, if we are truly doing so in the name of history then we will erect counter Union statues that beat that ass to stand next to them.   Yay!!!  Because that is the true story of the South – aka history.

 Deal?!?  

In the winter of our discontent; there is hope

Clarissa Etter Smith is a wife, mother

Clarissa Etter-Smith and her husband Steve live in suburban Boston.  She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky.

BY GUEST BLOGGER CLARISSA ETTER-SMITH

What an amazing few weeks we have witnessed. We’ve seen Supreme Court decisions affirming the legality of the Affordable Health Care Act and marriage equality.The murder of nine people inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston gave us a glimpse of our president that we rarely see. While giving the  eulogy for Emanuel’s pastor, state legislator Clementa Pinckney, President Barack Obama sang a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Healthcare became a right in this country. I often wonder how we became a nation whose people believe you should profit from sickness.  We are the largest industrialized nation where healthcare continues to be a for profit business. As someone who has worked in the business of pharmaceuticals for 20 years, it has sometimes been difficult to look from inside the business to outside and reconcile why we must profit from illness.

Then there is the other side, the innovative medicines and services that have come from this country that allow us, not only to live longer but also to live longer stronger. With those innovations comes a price.  It takes millions to develop one new therapy. Most never make it out of the lab, but the brilliant scientists who do the work, think each time there will be a breakthrough. We must create the space for that spirit of discovery and innovation to thrive.

There is so much to love about this country. While our systems aren’t perfect, healthcare being one of them, we are better than most.

There are difficult issues to tackle. We must look at the underbelly of systematic racism or we will perish. The diversity we see on the streets of our nation is envied in other lands. We are a nation striving for perfection. But the Emmanuel Nine massacre brought the seedy underbelly to the surface. We learned that a deranged, 21-year-old man was able to purchase a gun, walk into a house of worship and gun down the faithful. After the fact, he admitted his hatred toward black people. Pictures surfaced of him posing with the Confederate flag, a worldwide symbol of oppression and hate.

Innovation comes at a cost. Access to Internet content sometimes breeds contempt and destruction.  How do we support love not hate? How do we show bitter, hate-filled  teenagers and young adults that killing is not the answer.  When will our dinner tables be filled with those who don’t look like us, but make our lives richer because of it?

I don’t know the answer to these questions. All I know is that we must stay in the conversation. We must continue to work toward a more perfect union.

The Affordable Health Care Act gives millions access to much-needed preventive care, but it won’t give people healthy, chemical-free food. We must demand that for everyone, not just the wealthy.

Marriage equality, gives our gay brothers and sisters the freedom to love, to share property, to declare on their last days the most pivotal relationship in their lives.

The tragic deaths of nine faithful Christians gives us yet another opportunity to look at ourselves and take a stand for what we want to be: A nation of equal opportunity.

I am hopeful, but I’m not naive.  Now that the confederate flag is down, the question remains: Can we rise above the hatred and oppression it represents?

When your heritage represents our pain

This imagine of kids playing  together in 1950s Detroit should help us remember that we are one.

This iconic photograph of children playing in Detroit should remind us all that we are one. The flag that divides us should not fly on public property.

First a painful truth: the Confederate flag flies all around the South. I’ve seen it in Jackson, Miss. and in Selma, Birmingham and Montgomery, where black people — and the white people who helped them — were beaten and murdered for trying to fulfill their humanity and gain equal protection under the law.

Here in Georgia we see the flag on porches, at places of business and on the license plate of a car that seems to be following you way too closely.

Now the debate about the flag is focused on South Carolina, where a 21-year-old man pictured with the Confederate flag killed nine people in a Charleston church two weeks ago and admitted he did so because he hated African-Americans. The pastor of that church, Clementa Pinckney, was among those slaughtered. He served in the South Carolina state legislature, the very body that will take up the flag issue next week.
The Civil War may have ended 150 years ago, but this battle over the Confederate Flag rages on. For me, the flag represents oppression and hatred. I get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever i encounter it. My mind goes back to a time when black people were killed just for being black.

Earlier this week I asked Rev. C.T. Vivian about the Confederate flag and the burning of black churches throughout the South in recent weeks. Vivian, who turns 90 this month, fought for voting rights in Selma. As a young pastor and divinity student in Nashville, he took part in the Nashville Student Movement and the Freedom Rides in the early 1960s. In 2013, President Barack Obama awarded Vivian with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“The flag is representing the death, the murder and the misuse of black life before and after slavery. That’s why they talk about heritage,” said Vivian. “Well I would not want to be a part of heritage that talks about hate as a basic part of my lifestyle. They have to understand the hanging and the killing and the beating of black people by Christians and the Klan was a basic part of a good deal of what the white church did in the south. Racism was a part of the lives of the Southern Baptists.”

As Dr. Vivian noted, the flag is deeply engrained in Southern culture.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the flag outside of my workplace. It was 1989 and I’d moved from St. Petersburg, Fla. to take a reporting job in Atlanta. When I walked into the newsroom, I asked why the Confederate flag was flying outside my new workplace. It’s part of the Georgia state flag, a colleague said.

And here I thought I was moving to “the city too busy to hate.” The black Mecca. The cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. Welcome to Georgia, where every other neighborhood has “Plantation” in its name and there is an entire museum dedicated to revisionist history.

It would be years before the Confederate emblem was removed from Georgia’s state flag. It was a bruising battle that ultimately came down to economics and image.  In the South, you see, one of the justifications for slavery is that it was an economic institution.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery often speaks about how Southern culture and ideals come into play with current day issues, such as the need to appoint more black judges in Georgia.  Much of the resistance stems from the refusal of some state legislators to let go of the past, he contends.

“They are still fighting the Civil War,” said Lowery, who in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in civil and human rights.

So display the Confederate flag if you choose. But do so with the knowledge of the hurt and pain it brings to many Americans who helped build this country.

But it should no longer be displayed on public property.

Let’s honor the nine men and women who died at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Take down that flag.