Pledging Allegiance To The Confederate States Of America
In North Carolina, unemployment benefits have been slashed. Efforts are underway to reduced exemptions to the sales tax and cut corporate and income taxes, to implement a photo ID law to make it more difficult for minorities to vote, to restrict access to abortion, and to enact corporate-friendly laws targeting consumers or organized labor.
Naturally, then, I turn my attention to a parade float. Fayobserver.com reports
The incident is prompting officials to review the town's parade application process later this month.
In the parade that went through downtown Hope Mills, a float carrying a bed full of watermelons was attached to a John Deere tractor. A Confederate flag was attached to the back. On each side, there were two small white signs. They said "White History Month" and "hug wht ppl."
Town officials have received about a dozen phone calls or emails about the float. Others have voiced concerns on the Facebook page of the town's Parks and Recreation Department as well as on social media.
The float was one of eight entered by Donnie Spell in Thursday's parade, said Kenny Bullock, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.
Spell could not be reached for comment Friday.
Bullock said Friday he had asked a member of Spell's family to take the signs down before the parade started Thursday morning. He said he does not know why they did not comply with the request.
Some might say ostentatiously advertising watermelons as part of "White History Month" should be avoided because it is bigoted or racist. Not the city fathers or mothers, however, who are more concerned because feelings might be hurt. Bullock
learned the signs were still on the tractor midway through the parade when people started calling his cell phone, he said.
Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner said she received a few phone calls and an email about the float. She did not see the float during Thursday's festivities because she was part of the parade. She later saw a photo of the float.
"I believe we've got to make sure we're sensitive to all people's feelings," she said.
The spectator who sent her the email said the float is not representative of the Hope Mills community. She agreed and said residents should not have to see a float they find offensive in the parade.
"Our town has become more diverse," she said Friday.
Evidently, if the town still were all-white, ridicule of black people would be just swell but, with minorities inconveniently settling in the community, offending sensitivities is to be avoided. However, these fine patriots were not promoting the political flag of the Confederacy but- as do most longing for white supremacy- the battle flag of the Confederacy (illustration of the National Flag of the Confederacy, below, and of the Confederate Battle Flag,beneath the "National Flag," from infoplease.com). At the time criticizing Mike Huckabee's endorsement of the battle flag, the late Christopher Hitchens explained
the political flag of the Confederacy—the so-called "Stars and Bars"—is one thing. The battle flag of the Confederate army, the most militant symbolic form that secession and slavery ever took, is quite another. Under this fiery cross of St. Andrew, the state of Pennsylvania was invaded and free Americans were rounded up and re-enslaved. Under this same cross, it was announced that any Union officer commanding freed-slave soldiers, or any of his men, would be executed if captured. (In other words, war crimes were boasted of in advance.) The 13 stars of the same flag include stars for two states—Kentucky and Missouri—that never did secede, and they thus express a clear ambition to conquer free and independent states.
His sense of priorities firmly intact, Hitchens observed
In this country, it seems that you can always get an argument going about "race" as long as it is guaranteed to be phony, but never when it is real. Almost every day brings news of full-dress media-oriented spats about Don Imus, Bob Grant, or the recent nonstory about how some golf show hadmanaged to mention Tiger Woods and the word lynch in the same news cycle... But just let the real thing occur, with a full-blooded and full-throated bellow of old-fashioned authentic racism, and you can see the entire press refusing to cover it for fear of having to confront the real and unvarnished thing (and perhaps for reasons having to do with other "sensitivities" as well).
It is more than five years, and we are still more concerned about sensibilities and the reaction of others than we are about the wrong we ourselves do. The watermelon as stereotype is bad, to be sure; but proudly and defiantly exhibiting a Confederate battle flag in a parade honoring the United States of America is obscene.