It's not easy confronting one's history, especially if it has a dark history, like Southern Whites confronting racism.
Greg Nix, my former roommate is proud to be a Georgian (though he was technically born in Albuquerque) and proud of the Southern flag, but he was taught to see it as a political symbol of State's Rights and independence, not racism. Also coming from the "Southern redneck" tradition of Jason Carney, Nix's poem is more a commentary on the non-Southern racist view of the Southern non-racist heritage. It addresses the non-Southerner view of Southern whites as split into two factions: the "enlightened egalitarian" white person - the common stereotype that we non-Southerners attribute to more-or-less racial equality in the South - and the "ignorant redneck" who seemingly hates gays, minorities, always votes Republican and would rather return to Jim Crow segregation if not outright slavery.
Of course, growing up in the 1980s, I will always equate the Confederate flag with "The Dukes of Hazzard" (let's ignore that abortion of a remake in 2005.) I had several toy General Lee cars as a child.
The unnamed roommate (not me, by the way) in Nix's poem misunderstands the political implications of the Confederate flag perhaps out of racism or simply thinking the flag is cool or rebellious.
Most of the (invariably white) people I've met who display the Confederate flag on their vehicle display the flag for provincialism not out of ideology:
like the Texans' Lone Star
or the Arizonans' sunburst and copper star.
I don't know Delawareans who do the same, for obvious reasons.
Both non-Southern and Southern blacks might have different interpretations of the Confederate flag, but as Nix points out, these are not due to the political use of the flag during and after the Civil War but due to the cultural and racial use of it. If the Texas flag had been used instead or another symbol had been used, we might have a far different feeling on the banner.
By Greg Nix
he hung the flag in our stairwell
because, "its cool - you're a Southerner"
I'd heard that line from him so many times
just wanting to plant into his soul
what that means to me
memories of school days when us Boy Scouts would
salute the flag and pledge allegiance to Georgia
studying our state history
lost in marvelment at the sacrifices our Forefathers made in
weekends spent at Stone Mountain recalling with pride
Stonewall Jackson, General E. Lee, Nathan Bradford and our esteemable
President Jeff Davis
looking back with wonder at the way our great great granddaddys
went off and fought for us, on behalf of us
in defense of home and hearth because
rich noble men floated in the air such words as
State's Rights. Self-Determination. Freedom.
but it all changed following Defeat and Occupation
a band of disgruntled officers mounted up beneath
the battle colors
rode off to begin our glorious history
whites hats, nooses, crosses burning in the night
the flag my forefathers fought under
fighting for no other reason then why young men always fight
i was raised to honor that flag in memory of
others who died not for slavery
but in defense of their homes
my ancestor's homes
the homes where my great great great grandmama's
passed forth the next generation in morning cries and tears.
until one day my father explained it better to me
clearing away the cobwebs of yesterday's glorious triumphs
"we never had the battle colors on the state flag
when i was growing up, son,
they put it there when Brown beat the Board of Ed
it was a reminder to 'them.'"
always us 'n' them.
still to this day
my father taught me that being
means to honor your parents,
love God in devotion
always bear yourself with respect.
i wasn't raised to hate
and yet, being a Southerner i must inherently be
racist, homophobic, and misogynist
this is the expectation
why don't i just go ahead and pop another Pabst
blast the Skynyrd a lil' louder?
fry me up some chicken and
let's go burn us a cross!
praise jay'sus too!
and here that poor damn fool goes hangin' that flag in my home
nevermind that i once believed it stood for something noble
stood as symbol for ideals or homes or in honor of my ancestors
nevermind that that flag stood as stone edifice to the
members of my state
hung and torched, mobbed for being a different color
killed because some asshole officers couldn't take defeat
couldn't accept that their way of life
because sometimes it must just be easier to hate
than to learn to love
i told my roommate
"lets put it out front!
wave it proud for all the neighbors to see!
we'll stand together and say, 'its
History, not Hate.' its
'Rebellion against Unlawful Authority.' 'its
he never saluted that flag
unknowing what it really meant
how deeply it cut across the grain
my father impressed upon me
or how sick and tired i am of
attempting to explain to others
what mixed feelings i have toward
the Confederate Flag
realizing how others judge me by the
blood soaked into that fabric
turning it from a sentiment once noble
into a symbol of all that
and that flag doesn't stand for me
doesn't answer a single question anymore
i won't stand to have it in my presence
won't stand to see the battered and tarnished image
it has become
at the hands of assholes like my old roommate
who think hate is funny
call it hysterical and wonder why i grind my teeth
uncaring of what lies beneath the colors
but i do
i took it down
i threw it out
he didn't understand.
This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.