The tragic events of recent days have once again focused the emotions of much of the nation on the Confederate flag and what it stands for and what it does not.
I understand that for many people the Confederate flag stands for history, heritage, and the bravery and courage of their ancestors. However, the flag has been despoiled and sullied by the KKK and other white supremacists who have cloaked their evil deeds and beliefs with the "Stars and Bars."
It is now time for it to be retired from public display on government property. Public display on government property cannot be separated from tacit government approval of what the flag represents. It is clear that for many Americans the Confederate flag has come to represent white supremacy and racism. And it must be acknowledged that the Constitution of the Confederacy guaranteed the "right" of Confederate citizens to "own" negro slaves.
Full disclosure requires that I make it clear that I have direct ancestors who fought under the banner of the Confederacy. I also have direct ancestors who fought for the Union, a by-product of having a Texan father and a Bostonian mother. As a boy when we played "war" back in Texas, we used to flip a coin, and the losers had to be the Yankees, and the winners got to be the Johnny Rebs. I "get" the emotional attachment to the Stars and Bars. I am representative of a large group of people of my generation who were raised in the South, although my "South" needs an asterisk because I am a sixth generation Texan, and Texans always require a large asterisk.
However, I was born in 1946, the first year of the baby boom. I was raised in the South that went from segregated to integrated by the mid to late-'60s as a result of the civil rights revolution and Dr. King's inspired leadership.
By the way, I was born and raised in Houston, now the nation's fourth largest city and the nation's most ethnically diverse city in the nation, exceeding even New York City, another tribute to the phenomenal success of Dr. King's vision. I was always taught at home, by both my Bostonian mother and my Texan father, that racism was not only wrong, but sinful. If I had ever used the "n" word, or treated anyone impolitely because of the color of their skin, I would have been severely punished, maybe even "spanked."
One of my most cherished stories about my World War II Navy veteran father was related to me by my mother. In 1943, my father, a newly minted Chief Petty Officer, was put in charge of a detail of approximately 15 African-American sailors who had just graduated from basic training.
My father was in charge of their transfer from Chicago to New Orleans. They were traveling by train, and when they crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, a railroad official informed my father that he could remain in the car where he was, but his black sailors would have to go back to a segregated car at the end of the train. My father said, "We are all wearing the uniform of the United States Navy, and we are going to stay together. Either they can stay with me, or I will go and sit with them."
After about a half hour of "consultations," my father went and sat with his fellow sailors in the segregated part of the train. When it came time for dinner, the conductor came back and informed my father that he could come to the segregated dining car, but his sailors would have to remain where they were and eat box lunches.
Once again my father informed the railroad officer that they were all wearing Navy uniforms, and they would all eat together. It was finally decided that after the dining car was closed to public, my father and the sailors would be escorted into the dining car and eat together. This was in 1943! This symbolizes my father's basic rejection of the segregated culture in which he had been raised.
So, when my playmates and I were rallying around the Confederate flag, it had everything to do with regional pride and a "lost cause" and nothing to do with racism and bigotry.
However, as I said earlier, the vile KKK and the evil white supremacists have desecrated the Confederate flag beyond redemption by cloaking their malevolent causes within its folds. It is well past time for the Stars and Bars to be retired to the museums where it belongs.
If our Christian brothers in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston can forgive and act redemptively in the face of the monstrous evil they have experienced, then the least that Christian Southerners can do across the land is put the checkered past symbolized by the Confederate flag behind them once and for all and embrace their African-American brothers and sisters and move forward together into a much brighter future for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.
Together we can create a far better legacy then the one bequeathed to us by our ancestors.