For the past five years, I have been involved in the Greater Brandon Fourth of July Parade with my church, St. Andrew's United Methodist Church. We love to show our love for our country. We have a great deal of joy making our float and preparing what we want to do for the parade. Each year we give out thousands of fliers that invite folks in the Brandon area to worship with us, as well as tons of candy and beads.
It is all a great way to meet your community. It seems like it is all positive, but there is a dark spot on the parade. The parade celebrates our independence as a nation from England, as a result of the Revolutionary War. This is the reason for the annual holiday we call the Fourth of July. However, some folks have used this opportunity to display another flag that has nothing to do with the celebration of America becoming a country at all. There are at least two or three groups that march in our community under a flag that is, frankly, offensive to a great number of people in America.
During the Brandon parade the Confederate battle flag marches with "Old
Glory," "Stars and Stripes," the American flag representing the 50 states in our Republic. The problem now is, "How is that other flag, the Confederate flag, something to be celebrated in a public forum, which, at times, receives national attention?"
Simply put: It should not.
It should not be displayed in that forum under any circumstances. In a country
that is already racially divided in way too many ways we need to look at
solutions to the ever-increasing ways by which we are separated. This flag is a
blemish on that ideal.
The confederate flag as we see it — also called, "Stars and Bars" — was created out of necessity during the American Civil War. The muskets used by both the North and the South produced a considerable amount of smoke and at times you could not tell where you were or where you were going. When the South's bugler would sound the retreat, often the southern army would retreat the wrong way and end up face-to-face with Union soldiers. At this point both sides had similar battle flags. It was shortly after that the South changed its battle flag to the one that is carried with "honor" in the Brandon parade.
Some would say that the Confederate flag is not a flag of hate, discrimination, or prejudice. Some would say it is a symbol for southern people, for a different way of life, or for a style by which slower, family centered life is welcomed. What about our black southern friends? Is this something they would see as representative of their lives?
I had a conversation in Mississippi, of all places, which by the way still honors the Confederate battle flag in their state flag, and we were talking this very same subject and one student texted a black friend of theirs and asked,
"Does the Confederate flag bother you?"
No, "didn't care," the friend replied back. This was from a teen who obviously has had no connection to the level of hate this flag brings.
This year I feel we need to take a stand as a community and rally around justice and what is right. I have no personal affinity for the Confederate Battle Flag, but I am white, and I have no possible way of knowing the feelings of black folks, who might have negatively been affected by this flag and what it represents.
When I was a teen in Miami, where I grew up, I saw what this flag did to folks of all colors, with race wars at my junior high school. I saw where a truck driver tried to knock my best friend off his bike with the truck's door.
Here in Brandon, some 30 years later, I see how the issue directly affects our community, and the folks who call Brandon home. Thirty years later, the same feelings and hurt are evident. One person very close to me, who I know does not want to be identified, had a family member killed at the hands of a group that flew that flag. So while it may be a flag of some insignificance to some, or just a
group of good ole' boys, never meaning no harm, education tells us what it
really says about who we are as human beings, created in the image of God. Fly
your Confederate flags at home, or on your vehicle, but not in our Independence Day parade.
I expect much flack and feedback on this blog, and truly that is not what this is
about. Our awesome community is just that, awesome. Therefore, we should at all times act justly; love mercy and walk humbly with your God.