By Timothy Rouse, posted with permission
Let me start by saying this... I am a southerner! I was born in the south, raised in the south, and (as far as I can tell) I will likely die in the south. This is where I met my wife, started raising my kids, and it is where I feel I belong. So I have a unique perspective on what people are talking about when they talk about "heritage" and "culture" because it's the heritage and culture I grew up in. I have seen the good things within that culture. Love your neighbor, love your spouse, love your kids, train and teach them. Show and treat people with respect (especially to your elders). Take care of your community and your church. Protect your country. And most importantly for me, love God above all else. I know about a culture that teaches you to work hard for what you want. How to be honest and kind, even if doing both at the same time is not an easy thing to do (I still mess it up). The list of positives goes on and on. Now I'm not saying these qualities are limited to only those who are true southerners, but something about growing up here seems to just put it in your blood. To those born here, you understand what I'm saying. Just as those born elsewhere could probably talk about the engrained traits they benefited from because of where they grew up.
Getting that out of the way, a hot topic of late is of a flag, a symbol, and how some say it is the symbol of this culture I described and others say that it is a symbol of hate. Here is where I think my perspective gets to be somewhat unique. Being raised in what I assume is a typical southern community, I also was susceptible to the same misunderstandings and misperceptions about black people in my area and around the world for that matter. Now I didn't see myself as a racist person nor as someone with any racist tendencies, but .... by definition of the word, I guess I was wrong. While I never hurt anyone, nor even tried to, I was very guilty of prejudice thoughts and beliefs. I just mistook it for pride in who I was, and where I was from. But I was lucky.
My first realization came early on, and was timed as only God could do. Early in my teens, when I was trying to decide on what type of man I wanted to be, my brother helped to remove some of the blinders that prevented me from seeing my misguided notions. I looked up to my brother. The man I tried to be, was the man I perceived him to be. So when he said/did things that seemed to go against my misguided belief system... I took notice. It was nothing super profound, but by the time he left home to go to college, I had pulled back from the ledge of possibly becoming a full fledge racist. I saw how being a racist is a huge waste of time, energy, resources, and such a waste of the life we have been given. I thought I was completely on the right track.... but again I was wrong.
Through time with new friends, my wife, coworkers, and through time spent thinking about things in my quiet time, the bubble of my prejudice cracked more and more. Then the hammer fell. My wife and I adopted a beautiful baby girl, Cassidy. I love this girl and I can tell you she is as much my daughter as her two older siblings. Why was this event part of my "hammer"? Well if you don't know, Cassidy is black. Her birth mother and father are black. Now at the time, I believed I was healed of my misunderstandings and I saw myself as fixed of all my racial misgivings, but loving this girl opened a door for me that had not been opened before. Loving her showed some areas I didn't know were there. The hammer came down hard when a friend told me she would have to learn how to move/function in both white and black culture. The comment brought questions to my mind about why is that? She is my daughter! Why wouldn't she share in my culture?!? But before I could ask it aloud, he continued "She needs to learn how this world will see her when you aren't there."
For a moment, time slowed to a crawl. A comment so simple as that, but it had never hit me. My perspective on life shifted. I saw the world not only that I lived in, but to the world she will live in.
So how does this affect my view on this flag, this symbol? It becomes very simple for me. In ten years from now, when my daughter asks me about what I thought at the time, and where I stood on the issue... what response will I be proud of? Despite of what I grew up seeing in that flag, despite of what anyone else sees in that flag, it is what she will see that gives me my answer. That flag is no longer my symbol. It does not represent me, nor does it represent the things I love about this area I call home. It does my heart good to see it taken down from government buildings. It also doesn't hurt my feelings to see it pulled from shelves.... It really isn't my symbol anymore.
One last point, (if you're still with me) if one group says it (the flag) stands for southern culture and heritage, while another group says it stands for hatred, oppression, and slavery.... Then let me ask this question. When that flag was defeated, almost 200 years ago, what was defeated with it . . . southern culture or slavery?
So, which one did the flag really stand for then?
For me, I am looking for a new symbol to represent my home. I hope some others will join me.