I bet you never thought you would see that post heading.
Over at her little blog, which Connie has rendered as “Backsass” and “Backass” (the second rendering coming in her frequent visits to the comments section of various articles last week), she has a practice of writing lengthy, long-winded posts about people she does not like, and, as you might imagine, I’m a special target. Some people who have discovered her blog have circulated it widely to those people who want a better understanding of the person who manages the blog of the Virginia Flaggers, and, to channel Kevin Levin, I couldn’t be more pleased at the response. Sometimes you have to see something to believe it.
Most recently Connie has taken exception to how some people in the comments section in an online article at Richmond’s Style Weekly have characterized southerners. Not satisfied with that, she rants: “A Challenge for Brooks Simpson. Defend these vacuous, history-deficient, hate-filled comments from Flagger opponents posted to Style Weekly.”
I won’t. I think they are wrong-headed, and for a very good reason: a good number of them mistake the Virginia Flaggers and their supporters for representative southerners. Nothing could be further from the truth … and many southerners will second that observation.
The present burden of southern history and heritage happens to be the Virginia Flaggers and their supporters. Most southerners know that flying the very flag embraced not only by the KKK in recent memory but also by forces of white supremacy, racism, segregation, and massive resistance in the 1950s and 1960s sends a message of hate as well as heritage, and in some cases that heritage is one of hate. The South I know today is much more tolerant than the South I entered in 1975 in my first year at the University of Virginia, when the university president defended his membership in a whites-only private club and the house of the Afro-American dean came under attack. I know that the South is a diverse region (Virginia, Tennessee, and South Carolina are very different), and, as someone who has family that is southern (including Texas and Louisiana), that education continues.
It is one of the sad aspects of the Virginia Flaggers’ project to fly a Confederate navy jack along 1-95 south of Richmond that it attempts to define the South (and Richmond in particular) by an event that lasted four years out of the centuries of the rich history of the region and the Old Dominion. It’s a banner that explicitly excludes the enslaved African Americans who welcomed the entry of Old Glory into Richmond on April 3, 1865, and cheered as the national colors were placed atop the state capital. As a native Richmonder recently told me, the Flagger proposal is nothing more than a middle finger thrust at the rest of the world.
Many Richmonders oppose the Flaggers’ project, even as they concede the right of the Flaggers to do as they wish. The opponents clearly outnumber the supporters. Flaggers claim that this is a move of people from out of state, but then Flaggers welcome support from non-Virginians such as Florida’s Chastain and the pride of Chester, South Carolina, Carl Roden (the romance writer wing of the movement). Some Flaggers and their supporters say that if people in Richmond don’t like the flag, they should move, which suggests that they really aren’t anxious to welcome people to Virginia, and that they aren’t tolerant of free speech for anyone but themselves. Much like their intellectual ancestors, the proponents of the Gag Rule barring the reception of antislavery petitions by Congress in the 1830s and 1840s, Flaggers want to silence discussion and bar dissent, signs of their own uncertain commitment to democratic values.
Folks, the Flaggers and their supporters aren’t representative of southerners or southern values. They represent a thread of thought and sentiment that was once the fabric of a slaveowning society grounded upon white supremacy that subdued opposition through terrorism and violence. That fabric is no more, and flying a piece of that fabric won’t change that fact. Don’t blame southerners, white and black, native and recent arrivals, for the actions of the Flaggers and their supporters. Don’t mistake their views for the views of all southerners. After all, Virginia is for lovers … not haters.
Note: Chastain declares: “If you want to know the truth about a person, do you really think you’ll get it from someone at enmity with them? Nobody with common sense would do that. Only those wishing to have their prejudices confirmed.” Read her postings at Back[s]ass with that in mind.