Novelist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, writing for The Guardian, offers a particularly eloquent and honest look at the meaning of the Confederate flag in Southern culture. Her piece, “A view from the South: let the Confederate flag go” is well worth your time to read in full.
Like Kingsolver, I am a Southern woman from a small Appalachian town. I identify with her as she tackles the thorny issues of “Southern pride” and the culturally interwoven symbols and words that may seem innocuous, but aren’t. Like me, I suspect many from the South will find familiar threads as she describes her community:
Attaching banality or meanness to every element of our culture is unfair, but defining southern pride is an endless navigation. In our town, high-school football games are community entertainment. Our team is the Rebels. My daughter played in the marching band known as the Rebel Regiment. We decided to embrace the title: rebels, in my opinion, are the pilots of most human progress. The school cafeteria once bore a mural of Confederate soldiers and their flag, but it was painted over decades ago when the school’s first African-American principal arrived.
Kingsolver makes the case that Southerners should take responsibility for addressing what these symbols have come to mean and concludes:
A flag is a potent symbol, purporting to be the standard of a concordant nation. By carrying one into hate crimes, racists try to elevate their evil by suggesting a nation of racists stands behind them. My southern home is not that nation.
Neither is mine. We simply must be better than that.