Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Whistling Dixie in South Florida - Part 1

Having just had a conversation with the husband's decidedly, Republican family this weekend about South Carolina's battle to remove the Confederate flag from atop the State House (among other various and sundry racial topics), imagine my surprise when I came across this, "NAACP, Homestead in dispute over Confederate flag," while perusing today.

All that sun, fun and Miami Vice-like, glitz in print and on both the big and small screens tends to fool folks into thinking that South Florida is any and everything else BUT the Deep South, particularly from Miami, on south through the Florida Keys and down to Key West. But the article, and the very interesting comments that follow surely gives the lie to that perception.

As a born-n-raised, Black, South Carolina girl who has lived in South Florida - from Miami to Key West - on several, different occasions, the dispute over the Confederate flag has long been a part of this journey of me. And as I've walked it, I've grown and evolved tremendously. Well, sort of. Okay, let's just say - some.

In any event, parts of the piece were particularly interesting (all emphasis mine):

Since the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag has been a controversial symbol in American history. For some, it represents Southern heritage and evokes pride. Supporters have brought the battle flag to such events as the January's 24th Annual Kiss Country Chili Cook-Off and Concert in Pembroke Pines.

For others, it serves as a harsh reminder of slavery and racism. Thousands of white Mississippians, for example, waved Confederate flags when then Gov. Ross Barnett declared in 1962 that integration would never take place on his watch.

"Initially, we all thought this [Confederate flag-waving at the Homestead parade] was a matter of stupidity and all it would take would be to educate people that the flag is a symbol of terrorism," said Bradford Brown, first vice president of the Miami-Dade, NAACP chapter.
First of all, the Confederate battle flag will always be a controversial issue in these "united" states because let's face it, it does represent two sides of a diametrically opposed historical coin - depending on the lens through which the coin is viewed and who's doing the viewing.
For a long time (here's where that, "evolving some" comes in), I was definitely a member of the no-holds barred, no-Confederate-flag-wavin'-'round-me group. Its mere presence was, "a harsh reminder of slavery and racism."
But I can tell you exactly when I, ever so slightly, moved away from that position to the current limbo of sorts in which I find myself today. I even had a picture of it (said picture has apparently gotten lost over our many moves since I can't seem to find the damn thing. Back then, there was no saving to a CD, much less your camera!). I do, however, remember it like it was yesterday for some odd reason.

We'd moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1994 where we stayed for seven years. At the age of 10, my youngest son met a tow-headed blond kid, of East Texas parents, who would remain his best friend to this day. My son is now 25 - they still hang out.

On one of our annual "Let's get the hell out of Texas" summer vacations, we decided to take Calvin with us . He'd never, left the state before and I thought it'd be a great experience for him. The five of us and the dog piled into the Jeep and drove from Texas to South Carolina - an interesting undertaking, considering everybody except the dog was at least my size!

It was a wonderful and eventful trip (I won't even go into the three-car accident my oldest had while driving around town with the other two that extended my stay by a week! They still, to this day, blame it on a bee flying in the window!). Every time we crossed a state line, we'd stop so the guys could hop out and pose for a picture on every "Welcome to..." sign. When we got to my mother's, we decided we'd go downtown and do the whole tourist thing. The next day, we headed for historic, downtown Charleston.

We spent some time at The Old Slave Mart (preserved and restored - Lest we forget). There are sales transactions for "property" of another kind now at the open air vendors and shops which are also a part of the building today. I stopped in the doorway to talk to the Sweet grass basket ladies while the boys went through the stalls. Suddenly I heard a loud, "Man! This is so cool!"

Just beyond the doorway where my husband and I were standing, we could see Calvin and my youngest in a stall. With the sun streaming in from a small window overhead, I could see he was holding up possibly the biggest Confederate battle flag I'd ever seen. It had a picture of his favorite country music singer, Hank Williams, Jr., sewn smack dab in the middle of it. I looked at my husband, he looked at me, and I snapped the picture.

In that moment, it hit me - the flag controversy was not an either/or, but a both and. As the piece points out, to this kid, "it represents Southern heritage and evokes pride." To this not-yet a teen-aged kid, it was not, as Brown points out above, a "symbol of terrorism" on that sunny Low Country day, but his favorite singer on the Stars and Bars that his family holds dear. Jarring, to say the least.

Over the years since, I've still not yet figured out what exactly to do with this not-particularly-Teutonic shift in my thinking. But since it is a shift, nevertheless, I have at least acknowledged that there are huge challenges to figuring out how to somehow reconcile the two sides into something which marginalizes neither. I'm still workin' on it.


ea said...

Did you mean "tectonic" shift?

Have to go to work--will read part 2 this evening.

Deb said...

Hey ea, good to see you! I've been trying to catch up on drafts while writing new posts. Life just keeps on happening! :-)
You know, I have to admit that I really struggled with that one! I used Teutonic as in the huge shift in opinions after the Wall came down in Germany instead of the, ": having a strong and widespread impact" of Tectonic. I still don't know for sure!

Always glad to see you. Talk to you later.

ea said...

I wondered if your son's friend were of German ancestry. I missed the allusion to the wall. Either way works. Hope your trip was good.

Deb said...

I don't think so ea, although there is a large German community that settled in New Braunfels, outside San Antonio (that's where I got my 2nd American Eskimo Mini pup!). His family is from East TX, one of the more intolerant parts of the state.

I don't know! Tectonic, Teutonic! I'll have to consult Cinie - wordsmith extraordinaire on this one! :-)

I haven't left yet! The husband got in last Thursday. We went to NY to see his parents - for a night on Friday, and we're still in DC. We were leaving for FL in the morning but delayed it by a day (I'm having some real, DC-separation anxiety all of a sudden!!!). We're leaving Sunday and will be there for a few weeks, then on to TX for a house-hunting trip. The final move doesn't happen until mid-July. All of a sudden, I'm scrambling for ways to stay - crazy isn't it???

ea said...

I can understand your ambivalence. One of the less fun aspects of having choices is making a decision. If you are still going back-and-forth about whether you want to move, it is difficult to make progress in any direction. Risk-taking. What you might get might not be as good as what you left.

Deb said...

"One of the less fun aspects of having choices is making a decision."So, so true. I thought I'd already decided! Then, with the stress of the semester over, I started thinking about whether or not I would actually come back, finish, and get that paper (only 18 credits to go if I stay - a minimum of 24, provided I can transfer the maximum of 6 that'll be accepted at some TX schools I've checked out). Not to mention the logistics of it all!

I don't know ea, I'll think about it in a couple of weeks. Pero ahora, eso abrazo de la familia es una prioridad.

ea said...


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