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Southern pride has a dark history

To the Editor: Haywood County 2020: I can’t drive down the street without seeing a representation of a Confederate flag. It’s flying in my neighbor’s yard, waving from the backs of unnecessarily jacked up trucks, and on T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers. Let’s be honest, you can’t swing a possum without hitting the stars and bars. 

All views are not going to align with mine in the world. That’s acceptable. I understand the complexities of the Confederate flag/Southern pride argument. Like most issues, it is not simple. There are nuances. But folks need to be willing to embrace the entire story of the flag’s history. If you are comfortable with the entire story, after that, then more power to you. But don’t walk into it blindly. 

A person who is a Civil War buff, battlefield reenactor, or devoted historian might not be seeing beyond their “attachment” to the flag. It was created in the 1800s as part of Southern rebellion against the United States. The deep, deep racism that is a part of slavery is so much a part of that flag and what is represented. As a collective, we should all be able to recognize that the flag represents racism, hate and negativity for many peoples of all backgrounds. We should put people first and care for others (this include people’s “feelings”).

Sidenote: I’m not sure when caring about other people’s feelings became stigmatized. Being nasty and downright cruel has become such a mainstream ideology with insults such as “snowflake” attached to any person who shows the least bit of humanity. Stop demonizing sensitivity. Geez. 

When someone says “my family fought for the South” as if that somehow entitles them to this symbol ... yep, so did my ancestors. It is not something we’ve celebrated. It’s part of our family history, sure, but no one has ever said “this is the best we’ve done”. If your family’s biggest point of pride was being on the losing side of history 155 years ago then perhaps your family has larger problems to evaluate. 

I realize there were conscription laws in place. If you were told to serve the CSA and you refused, you’d be killed. Sheriff John Noland of Haywood County was famously shot down and ambushed on a remote mountain pass by men who were escaping their “duties” to fight in a war they didn’t believe in. 

If you know Western North Carolina’s history, you’d recognize most mountain folks were poor before the war, hardly hit during, and suffered the brutal aftermath. Mountain folks were fighting a rich man’s war that had nothing to do with them personally (much like modern wars). The Confederacy did nothing for people of this region but leave families devasted. Generations of men folk — fathers and sons dead, women/children destitute and alone, and it opened up our world to carpet baggers who could buy property cheap and afford paying taxes on our homesteads which many couldn’t do after the war. 

But I truly believe it’s important to understand where the “other side” is coming from. For you, it might be a symbol of history or Southern pride, but others do not view it through the same lens. Maybe it’s time to re-examine what you want to represent you, your family and your personal history. I’d also wager that the majority of those people who say this is a valuable symbol could probably not pass a middle school level history examination on the subject. During critical moments of reform, people cling to imperiled ideologies as a means to fight back. We see the same people criticizing athletes for taking a knee — disrespecting the flag — but defend flying the traitorous “rebel flag” or holding onto statues that were only erected years after the war during the Jim Crow era. 

It’s time to move on and do the “right” thing. The future will look much different. By 2044, white America is predicted to fall below half the population and lose majority status. If this signifies some kind of doomsday clock for you, then it’s probably a good opportunity for you to have an honest self-inventory of your character. For those who adamantly argue it is not a symbol of racism or hate, then why would you bring it to a Black Lives Matter rally? Why have you allowed your meaningful symbol to be hijacked by hate groups? Have any of ya’ll Southern pride individuals ever confronted one of these racist individuals and said, “I’m taking back my flag. It’s heritage not hate” or “Black lives matter if all lives matter and that’s my flag! Get on somewhere!” Nope. You know why. I know why. That flag represents something to you that maybe you can’t even explain to yourself. Self awareness is a sobering tool.  

Our younger generations are thankfully a different breed. They’ve access to a wealth of knowledge available at their fingertips. These kids are savvy. These kids are “woke.”These kids will change the world. My hope is these kids are going to save us from ourselves, show us a better way, accept others’ differences and embrace diversity to build better communities.

There’s plenty of reasons to have Southern pride. Be proud of a good work ethic. Be proud of building community and helping your neighbors. Be proud of our famous Southern hospitality, how we welcome in a stranger. Be proud of how we can relish our slow-downed lifestyle. Be proud of innovation and creativity. Be proud of perseverance in the face of adversity. 

Come on y’all, can’t we just make cornbread a symbol of Southern pride? Crumble it up in milk, folks. It’ll change your life. 

Heather Hyatt Packer 

Waynesville 

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