Southern Culture Ain't the Problem, Y'all

I love the South. The land of fried chicken and banana pudding, where the only thing sweeter than the people is the sweet tea they make. It’s a place where everyone says “sir,” “ma’am,” and “y’all,” and respect and courtesy is the rule, not the exception. We love Jesus, America, and NASCAR. We simply refuse to eat tofu, worship Buddha, and hate American exceptionalism like the liberals do. Here in the South, we’re proud to be different. That’s why liberals hate us – and have hated us for years.

And now, they’ve decided to destroy us.

Nine days ago, a young man with a twisted, evil mind walked into a historically black church in Charleston, SC. After sitting in the Bible study for almost an hour, he got up, pulled out a gun, and brutally murdered nine people. It was later discovered that he was a white supremacist who wanted to start a race war.

As the news trickled out of Charleston, the world watched breathlessly. This had the potential to be Baltimore 2.0. But it turned out to be nothing of the sort. Instead of rioting, the community came together. They knelt together outside the church and prayed for healing, comfort, and peace. Charleston’s response was typical of the South. Southerners care about their neighbors, both in a figurative and a literal sense.

But instead of praising the racial harmony on display, the media decided to create a controversy. Rather than focus on the nine mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters who lost their lives, the media began to politicize this tragedy. They saw an opportunity to discredit the home base of their most ardent opponents.

So they chose to blame the entire South for the actions of one crazed young man. They started by attacking an icon of Southern culture – the Confederate battle flag – and pushed the narrative that anyone who flew that flag was a racist bigot who supported slavery. The media framed the entire debate as Southern Culture vs. Black People. In doing so, they tried to start the race war that the shooter wanted so badly.

But as much as the media would like to make it one, the South isn’t a racially divided culture.

I know an older gentleman who proudly hangs a Confederate battle flag inside the back window of his truck – the same truck he uses to go fishing with his black buddies.

I know a young man who proudly wears a Rebel battle flag on his t-shirt – the same t-shirt he wears to the mall with his black friends.

And I know people who proudly participate in Civil War reenactments as Confederate soldiers and nurses – and then go out to dinner afterwards with the black re-enactors from the Union side.

At this point, some of you are probably screaming, “HYPOCRISY!!” But those people (and every single Southerner I’ve ever talked to) don’t see that flag as a racist symbol. They don’t see it as a symbol of slavery, or as something that makes African-Americans lesser citizens. They see it as a way of honoring their ancestors – men who died fighting for a cause they believed in, even if that cause was misguided. They see it as a way of honoring their heritage, culture, and traditions.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not arguing that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. I’m not arguing that we should all go out and buy a Confederate battle flag. What I am arguing is that Southern culture – and by extension the Confederate flag – isn’t to blame for the Charleston shooter’s actions.

For starters, it is absolutely ridiculous to believe that flags cause people to commit murder. Flags don’t kill people; people kill people. But without race riots to boost their ratings, the media decided to make the whole story about a flag.

And so the war on Southern culture began. Activists began to demand the removal of the Confederate flag from the SC Capitol grounds. Once Governor Nikki Haley called on the legislature to take down the flag, the protesters moved on to Confederate flag license plates. Some Governors agreed to stop producing the plates, while other elected officials like Senate Majority Leader [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] discussed removing statues of Confederate leaders from government buildings.

Within hours, companies like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay all announced that they would stop selling Confederate flags and memorabilia. It got even crazier: The New York post called for the classic Southern movie, “Gone With the Wind,” to go the way of the Confederate flag, and Apple started removing Civil War games from their app store because they contained “racist images.”

As someone who doesn’t live in South Carolina, I don’t think it’s my place to judge Nikki Haley’s actions. I don’t care what the people of South Carolina do with their state Capitol. What I do care about is the systematic purge of everything remotely related to the South’s role in the Civil War.

As Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel said, “A cultural or historical cleansing of all things potentially offensive will do nothing to alleviate the problems caused by racism. To pretend otherwise is a disservice to serious discourse on the subject. We must examine our hearts and not resort to placing emotional blame for problems we face on symbols such as a flag.”

As we go forward, we should all take a lesson from General Robert E. Lee, a man who led armies into battle under the Confederate flag. Soon after the war had ended, Lee was attending church in Richmond. When it came time for Communion, a lone black man got up and walked to the altar. The parishioners were shocked. How dare this black man invade their church? Unwilling to take Communion next to a former slave, everyone refused to come forward. Everyone except General Lee, that is. Lee slowly walked forward and knelt next to the black man. Convicted by General Lee’s example, the rest of the church soon followed. Lee was a devout Christian, and understood that “There is neither slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

This is how to achieve racial unity – to understand that we are ALL God’s children. We can all work together to address racial issues. We can all go the extra mile to understand where others are coming from. And we can come together as one nation under God – just like the people of Charleston did this week.

But Southern culture ain’t the problem, y’all.

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