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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Mixed Feelings

You might remember that I wrote Sunday evening that the wife and I spent the weekend near Orlando so she could hunt for antiques and I could get some rest.

I didn't get any rest, but we found some dusty old stuff. Seriously, I have to admit I am occasionally fascinated by old junk at antique fares and flea markets. It gives a little glimpse into the past.

And that brings me to my point. It is inevitable at these fares - especially those held in the South - that some vendor is going to be flying a Confederate flag or lots of 'em, and is going to have a table full of black lawn jockeys with exaggerated facial features, and "Whites Only," "Colored Entrance," or "Colored Drinking Fountain" signs for sale.

And even though I've seen these things a million times, they never cease to amaze me every time I see 'em again.

It's not what you think. I don't get instantly outraged and belligerent. I learned a long time ago that that sort of reaction won't move certain people. And as the kids like to say I'm not sweatin' anybody who thrives on division.

Actually, I try to keep an open mind with this stuff. I try to tell myself with the flag, for example, that maybe there are legitimate and amateur historians who fly that flag to simply preserve a piece of Southern history. I tell myself that, but I can't help but feel a vibe of anger and defiance from the vendors flying the flags each time I get within 10 feet of their booths/tables. It's not like I'm on a mission, making snide comments, wagging my finger at them, etc. I'm just shopping and browsing like everyone else. If anything seeing that stuff and not reacting has helped me perfect my poker face. And as an aside, every time I've heard some angry person on TV defending the flag as a part of history to be celebrated, they're always talking about Southern pride. I've got pride too, and I'm from the South. But that doesn't mean that everything about the history of my birthplace is to be celebrated. Some of it is to be acknowledged, learned from, and put in a museum somewhere.

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. So onto the signs. They never bother me as much. In fact I've told my wife I want to buy a few of 'em and hang 'em on the walls of the spare bedroom and create my own miniature museum of hateful history, so visitors to my home have something besides my jokes and our food to reflect on. But, ironically, I joked with my wife that if I were to hang up "Colored Only" signs I might be accused of reverse discrimination. Again though, on Saturday I couldn't bring myself to give $20-plus hard-earned dollars to a dude who was looking at me as though he'd spit on me given the first chance. Not even a piece of history was worth financially supporting that guy.

Maybe one of these days I'll buy those signs and tell a Confederate flag waver how I really feel. Maybe not.

3 Comments:

  • I think buying a sign like that would do you good. To me every time I looked at it, I couldn't help but think how far we've come, and how much more there is to go.

    By Blogger Winter, at 2:45 PM  

  • Hey champ, don't be apologetic. All those symbols of racism and Jim Crow really should be gathered, photographed, and then burned. I don't need an actual shackle or a whip to remind me of how insecure and narrow-minded racists are or how much my people suffered. All those people at the antique show were looking at you funny because they though you wuz gonna go buck wizzie and Hulk-smash their shit. If you want a thrill, you should go to a gun show in the same area. Same redneck vendors and antiques, but armed to the teeth with firearms for sale.

    For real, though, the only symbolism that the stars and bars can have is one of hate. The idea behind the Confedrate States of America (CSA) was founded upon keeping the system of bonded servitude (slavery) in tact. Unlike those laboring under indentured servitude, bonded servants were bound to the land or their master with no chance of freedom save for manumission. Indentured servants were contract workers who were freed after a specified term (i.e. 7 years) or payment (you work only for me until you pay your indebtedness).

    So the only "southern heritage" that rednecks profess to display when they show a rebel flag is the heritage of buying, owning, selling, and breeding African, mulatto, quadroon, and octaroon slaves. I can never support something as injurious to my health as that.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:00 PM  

  • I don't know if it would do me good Winter. Might remind me of how far we have left to go and depress me instead.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:47 AM  

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