Whoa, everywhere you turn people are talking and arguing about the Confederate flag. Many want to erase it from history. Others are wrapping their bodies in it like a beloved blanket. Southern heritage means different things to different people. No matter how much ranting and protesting one way or another, people will NEVER see things exactly the same way.
You probably knew it was only a matter of time before I had to throw my two cents in about southern heritage. After all, my blog includes grits in the title for heaven’s sake. Southern? Why yes I am.
But the Confederate flag is not a symbol of my southern heritage.
My southern heritage includes the people and places and family traditions that shaped me.
This land at our home place, once swampy and snaky, land that my grandparents and great-grandparents cleared, this is my southern heritage.
Land rich in history.
This is the place I return home to as often as possible—the place I can breathe and remember and just be.
This field was (is) my playground.
My sister and I spent countless hours zooming our Matchbox cars between the furrows of cotton that by August grew thick and high above our heads. We hunted for tadpoles and turtles in the ditches and made mudpies on steamy summer days. We rode our John Deere bicycles to the far edge of the property where the earth seemed to curve. We chopped cotton with the farm hands.
My southern heritage includes priceless black and white family photos and stories passed down for generations.
A wooden box of old family recipes, the handwritten cards smeared with oily fingerprints and smudges of chocolate.
My church home filled with memories I can recall more clearly than what I did last week.
My southern heritage includes the small Delta towns that will always be home to me, and Old Man River which roils nearby shaping the very culture of this place.
The truth is, racism isn’t my story. I’ve never been denied anything because of my race. My ancestors who hailed from Tennessee and other points below the Mason-Dixon line likely fought against the abolition of slavery. They probably even owned slaves. Although I’ve never researched my ancestry, I doubt my people sat in the back of the bus. So who am I to say the rebel flag isn’t racist to those whose ancestors were slaves?
I am reminded of the wise words of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s iconic book To Kill a Mockingbird. “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Since we can’t literally climb into someone’s skin, maybe all we can hope for is tolerance. As a society we’d do well to remember that everyone’s story is different and worthy of consideration. Even those completely unlike our own.
Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I gotta believe that down deep where we all live, we are more alike than not.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
American Kids, Kenny Chesney