As a resident of the deep south for over half of my life, I have strong feelings about the confederate flag. I believe that there is no place for it in the modern world other than as an historical item. It represents not only the enslavement of the ancestors of many southerns, but it also represents decades more of their mistreatment. My views on the subject are part of the plot in z2 and I am glad to see this more empathetic view becoming more accepted by southerners of all races.
A friend who knows my beliefs on the subject sent me this question posed in Teaching Tolerance, fall 2013, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Our school sponsored a “Redneck Day” during spirit week. An African-American parent complained about a student wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag. It was all in fun. Any advice?
SPLC responded: One of the most important principles for school leaders is a version of the doctor’s oath to do no harm. A corollary might be: Don’t poke fun at anyone. Yet for spirit week, in the hope of promoting unity, schools routinely sponsor events that rely on stereotypes – encouraging students to dress like nerds, rednecks or hillbillies. When school leaders approve such plans, they invite students to take lightly things that should be taken seriously – stereotypes, slurs and powerful symbols. Our advice is to consider initiating a dialogue among students about the power of symbols and find ways to bolster school spirit without drawing on divisive stereotypes.
I found this interesting. Years ago my teen-age daughter chastised me for using the term “trailer trash” to describe how a place looked. It had never occurred to me that it was pejorative, but of course it is. Over the years I have come to believe that no group deserves to be lumped together and judged as one, whether I tend to like people from the group or, like the banker pictured here, they are less likely to have my sympathy.
In fact, the “don’t poke fun at anyone” suggestion above is wise, even though the idea of a “spirit day” at a school sounds so harmless. The truth is that whether it is dressing up as nerds, wall street bankers, or dumb blondes — you are in fact making fun of somebody. And much as I dislike seeing people wearing the confederate flag, I can’t really fault a kid for wearing it on a t shirt when instructed by the school to dress up like a redneck. I mean it’s a little like asking kids to dress up as famous despots and then sending one home for using a swastika on his Hitler costume….. what did you expect?
Surely there are ways we as humans can enjoy camaraderie and a few laughs without it involving making fun of someone else …. surely ….
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