I Grew Up
It is time for America to grow up and leave its racist past behind
I grew up in an all-white community in northern Michigan. I distinctly remember seeing my first black person who was visiting our church. I was probably about 10 years old, which would have been in the early-1970s, and I remember looking at him in wonder. In the early 1980s, one of the young women from the town joined the military and came back with her black fiancee. That caused a lot of talking and none of it was positive, supportive, or understanding. I laughed at black jokes and told my fair share. Even being from the north, The Dukes of Hazzard was a very popular show with the orange 1969 Dodge Charger named “The General Lee” and the Confederate flag painted on the top.
That was where I grew up and the environment I was raised in. Race wasn’t much of an issue because of the homogenous population. But then I grew up. I went to college and met people from all over the world, different cultures, different races, different religions, different than my small northern Michigan town. Later in life, I moved to Texas, worked in the high-tech industry, and was blessed to be exposed to even a wider swath of people with experiences much different than mine.
Moving from the north to the south, I was fascinated with Southern Pride. Michigan didn’t have the same level of pride in their state as Texas does. The Texas flag was displayed proudly almost everywhere. I don’t recall ever seeing the Michigan flag except on government buildings. The Confederate flag was also very common. One of the nearby school’s sports mascot was called “The Rebels” and the Confederate flag as their symbol. I grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard. I was familiar with the Confederate flag and, as far as flags go, it’s a pretty cool looking flag.
I learned American history in high school and college in Michigan. Imagine my shock, while living in Texas, the first time I heard someone say the cause of the Civil war was not about slavery. I try to be an open-minded person and willing to be wrong and learn. Ends up the war was about state’s rights. Except, the major part of the fight for the state’s right was the right for humans to own other humans. The Daughters of the Confederacy, with their ties to the KKK, set out to redefine what the Civil War was about and build monuments commemorating the revisionist history. They were very successful in both endeavors.
I grew up with a belief system that was a product of my environment and the era. Then I grew up. All men and women are created equal and symbols of the past that don’t support the divine equality of all humans have a place in a museum with signs next to them explaining that our nation has now grown up and no longer supports this evil mentality. The Confederate flag is no longer a cool looking flag on top of the 1969 Dodge Charger. It is a symbol of systemic racism and has no place except in a museum with a sign next to it educating people about the brutality of a Civil War fought to end state’s right to own other human beings.
Monuments erected by Daughters of the Confederacy for their revisionist history, backed by the KKK, have a place in a museum to teach us that we have grown up. Imagine in Germany, Swastika’s proudly displayed on monuments outside a courthouse as symbols of their heritage. Would any person of Jewish descent ever feel that courthouse was a place that would serve justice to them? The monuments we chose to erect and leave in place reflected our current beliefs. The Civil War was fought over the slavery of black humans. Why would any person of color feel a courthouse proudly displaying Confederate monuments would serve them blind justice? Germany has outlawed symbols of their racist and evil past. It is time for us to grow up and do the same.