Friday, February 09, 2007

Sticks and stones may break my bones....

What do the symbols of our past represent?

Do they mean anything to today's generation?

Should they?

I watched a news report tonight about two White girls in Burleson, TX who took confederate flag purses to school and chose to leave school rather than surrender their purses to the principal. The reasoning? They say it's their southern heritage and their right of free speech to carry the purses. On the flip side, I have some Black friends who use the "n" word in their regular conversation and feel just as strongly about their right to use that in their speech.

Should both acts be acceptable? Should both be unacceptable? Is it a matter of free speech? Does it matter anymore what those symbols represented in the past? Or is the meaning so far removed that it is insignificant for today's time?

Quite honestly, as a young child growing up in western Kansas and rural Missouri I never realized what the confederate flag represented. I watched the Dukes of Hazard and never thought twice about the flag on the "General Lee" car that they drove.

It wasn't until college that I became interested in the Civil Rights movement. Learning that part of our history, combined with some newly-formed friendships, helped me to understand the hate that the confederate flag symbolizes for African Americans and the fear that goes along with it. Now that I'm aware of that, it makes me shudder every time I drive through northern Arkansas and see the little store on the corner proudly displaying it's confederate flags for sale.

Do we need to forget what those symbols represented in the past so we can move forward? Is it too complicated to try to create awareness about what these symbols used to represent and how that hurt and fear still lingers today? Is free speech a right no matter what it means to others? Or, should we work toward educating ourselves, understanding each other, and being sensitive to how those words, actions, and symbols affect others...whether we are Black or White?
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