Saturday, June 20, 2015

Leave the Flag UP

Why would I --- a jazz musician who has devoted much of his life to studying, performing and teaching the music created by African Americans, which represents the greatest cultural creation of the last 200 years --- want the confederate flag to remain flying over South Carolina? 

I am not being deliberately provocative (well, perhaps I am just a little bit).

It is patently obvious that institutional and individual racism still exist.  Last week's slaughter is merely the most recent proof.

Racists should show their hand. I don’t want racist, homophobic or anti-semitic people, organizations or even states to mask their hate under the veneer of tolerance or with some bogus connection with civilized society. I want bigoted people to boldly display it front and center so I can identify them quickly and easily. I want places like South Carolina to fly the confederate flag, high, proud and true.  

We say we want South Carolina to take down the flag to because the confederacy represented sponsorship and promotion of slavery.  There is no question whatsoever that it did, and still does, exactly that.  I am ashamed by this part our nation's past, and how this past has continued to plague our present.

We want society to stop being racist. If flying the flag demonstrates our culture’s true underlying racism, then South Carolina should fly it. Once we all stop being racist, the people of South Carolina will agree to take down the flag naturally, as par for the course.  No legitimate argument about continuing to fly it would remain.

I’m willing to acknowledge one major drawback of my premise. I understand that having haters display their bigotry openly might facilitate their recruiting efforts. Perhaps they could use their transparency to teach racism to young, impressionable minds.  I don't deny this possibility.

But it is corrupt cops like Josh Doggrell who pretend to uphold the law by day, but show their true colors at night who cause the most trouble.  It’s his type of shadowy, backroom white supremacy that I find truly scary.  Hiding racism among us is what allows it to fester and grow.  

I can teach my kids about love and tolerance by simultaneously showing them concrete examples of the opposite with such laser-like clarity. But I continue to desperately hope for the day when I don't have to.

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