Reflections On Charleston One Week Later

One week ago, nine people went about their day. One week ago, those nine planned to attend Wednesday night services at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Did they feel joy? Did they feel sadness? Did they feel under pressure with too much on their plates? I don’t know.  What I do know was a hateful crime happened to them just one week ago.

The state of South Carolina, my state, will hopefully change for the better due to the horrible actions of one person one week ago today.  I’m thankful to see the outpouring of love and the lack of riots in our streets.  This is a good thing, but we can do better.

I’ve read a lot on the internet in the past week. Emotions and feelings are hard to identify and express at this time, but there are two things I want to discuss from this experience.

Nurture Makes the Difference

An old high school classmate posted a statement on Facebook yesterday expressing his difficulty in helping non-Southerners understand the Confederate flag issue in South Carolina. This bothered me because I was not raised with racial bias. I was not raised to see skin color.  I was raised to see people.  And therein lies the problem.

The people who recall the Civil War are long gone, but their legacies have not died in some families. Some children grow up in homes where they’re taught to remember and honor those ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. They cling to the flag as their heritage, and often, with this lesson comes prejudices.  I’m not saying everyone who clings to the flag sees it that way, but many do.

My parents raised me to a different kind of pride.  I had pride in my father and grandfathers for defending our country and others in WWI and WWII.  I learned to embrace and respect education. I was taught to have compassion for others.

The significant difference is what my parents didn‘t teach me about race.  They didn’t teach me to see differences between me and anyone of any other race. They taught me to seek common ground and appreciate the differences.  My country is a country of many amazing and vastly different people, and we are better for it.

How were you raised?

One of the posts I read this week states this even better, and I hope you’ll take the time to read and share it.  It’s entitled This Is Our Home.

The Flag Must Come Down

Nothing stirs up a crowd like an argument over our heritage. As I mentioned above, people are raised in different ways in the South.  Some are raised to honor the Confederate heritage.  The irony is that many of the people who fight to keep the flag flying are not descended from slave owners.  If their families fought in the war, odds are they were conscripted to fight in the place of a wealthy landowner.

I’m descended from a slave owner, a fact I learned later in life.  I’m not proud of it, but it is part of my ancestry.  I don’t judge myself based on this ancestor’s actions.  I wasn’t there. I didn’t own slaves.  What I do judge myself on is how I respond to this situation today. In the earlier section, I explained how I was raised, so it should come as no surprise to you that I have felt for many years that the flag MUST come down.  It should not fly over any US lands, especially a state capitol. We are not the Confederacy.

Another post I read this week stated this simply and plainly.  My friend and fellow writer, Marion Aldridge, shared with me this week his post on Where the Pavement Ends, and I hope you will read and share it, too.

What have you learned from this tragedy?