Letters: Feeling shame for someone else's Confederate flag

March 3, 2013 

I recently heard a descendant of slaves and son of sharecroppers share his journey from poverty born of prejudice. Minutes later, I encountered a white pickup flying a large Confederate flag. I had felt shame hearing the story of African people forcefully brought here and systematically mistreated. My shame quickly turned to rage at what that flag represents to me: the debasement with impunity of humans because of the color of their skin. I'd hoped this culture was dying; perhaps we haven't come far enough.

My thoughts turned to what freedom and courage ask of us. I wonder what fear, false pride or ignorance might motivate someone to display this symbol of oppression.

Now I find myself wondering where to place my concerns: Freedom of expression without responsibility for its impact? My reaction to the symbol? My cowardice in failing to confront the truck's occupants about the message they intended by flying that flag? The possibility they were intentionally sending a message of hate? Our capacity to offend without awareness or intent?

With these possibilities in mind, I wonder how we cultivate a culture that is truly supportive of the lives of dignity and purpose that most Americans seek.


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