"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Let's Talk About Prejudice

In which Saiph writes another controversial blog post and curses a lot. 

Because I'm going to be 36 in two weeks and I'm beyond the point in my life of shutting up about stuff. 

In light of all of the Confederate flag drama, I have been shocked by some of the people who have stepped up to defend it. One of them is my sister in law, who married my Puerto Rican brother. 

Prejudice and racism are alive and well throughout this entire country, hence why I see no problem whatsoever with the banning of the display of one infamous flag from state government offices. 

Let's talk about that flag, shall we?

The main reason why the Confederacy wanted to secede was because they wanted to keep their African slaves. The original Confederate flag was actually not the one that we see today in front of some people's homes and on the backs of some people's trucks. There were three flags flown during the Confederacy, the last of which was this one: 

THIS was actually the official battle flag. It was dubbed the "Blood-Stained Banner."
The Confederate flag that we know today was flown by a few Confederate Army units, especially in Virginia. It was known as the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. One of the units that flew it was General Lee's. General Lee chose to not display the flag anymore after his side lost. He wrote in a letter declining an invitation by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, "I think it wiser moreover to not keep open the sores of war." (Source)

So the flag disappeared, except for when it popped up at events to honor fallen Confederacy soldiers of the Civil War. And that's okay! 

The problem is that this flag started to really crop up during the 1950s during the fight for the rights of African Americans, when the South declared that they were for the segregation of races. In 1948, Strom Thurmond, a South Carolina governor who was running for president, created the States' Rights Democratic Party and adopted the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia as a symbol of defiance against the federal government's power to enforce civil rights laws in the South. (Source) His followers flew the flag in support of his platform which revolved around being pro-segregation.

The more rights African Americans earned, the more pervasive this flag became among the people that didn't support the equal rights movement. And so, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia, aka the Confederate Flag, officially became a symbol of hate, of racism, of prejudice, and of white supremacy. 

You know the Natzi swastika? "Swastika" comes from the Sanskrit word "svastika" which means "good fortune." Before Hitler turned it into a symbol of his beliefs, the swastika was actually a good thing, a symbol of auspiciosness in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, among others. 

You don't see anyone nowadays flaunting the swastika because it used to be a symbol of good fortune. No. And you don't see anyone, especially in Germany, flaunting the swastika in the name of the fallen German soldiers of World War II. In fact, if you display the swastika in Germany, you will earn yourself 3 years in prison. 

I agree with the views of the person that said, 
"[The Confederacy] fought for the right to oppress a people and for the economic benefits they gained from doing so. They were traitors to their country as well. In modern times, flying the Confederate Battle Flag represents support for segregation, suppression and racism, period. Flying any iteration of the Confederate flag to honor the Confederate war dead is the same as flying the Natzi swastika in support of the Third Reich's dead. Both flags stand for the enslavement and extermination of a people."

I personally think it is okay to show the Confederate flag in museums, as part of Civil War history, and also to honor those that died during said war during commemorative events. That said, I actually don't have a problem with individuals displaying it because it makes it easy to avoid them. It is still freedom of expression and if you forbid one person from displaying one flag, it's just a matter of time before other flags are banned because they might offend someone. That's just stupid.

But don't tell me that the vast majority of individuals that fly the Confederate flag in front of their homes and on the back windows of their pickup trucks are honoring their relatives that died during said war, because if you really believe that, you are simply trying to block the light of the sun with a finger, my friend. 

"It should not be controversial to say that people should not spend their days mourning relatives they never knew from a war that ended 150 years ago, especially if that feeling is so paramount that it outweighs the sense of brotherhood they might feel toward fellow humans who are alive, and for whom the flag's presence and endorsement by the government is the personification of the evil of white supremacy."
- Adam Ambinder

Prejudice in this country is not limited to African Americans exclusively. Anyone belonging to an ethnic group that is not white is, at some point or another, going to experience prejudice during their lifetime depending on where they live in the US. This prejudice also applies to people whose first language is not English.

You read my blog. I'm assuming that if you do, it's because you care and/or are interested in my story. In case you're wondering, prejudice DOES affect me and the people that I love.
  • Ever since PR became a US territory in 1898, Puerto Ricans have been first in line to be cannon fodder every time there is a war. Our young Puerto Rican men were drafted for the first time for WWI. My Puerto Rican grandfather, like so many of my older relatives, was drafted. He fought in the Korean War and lived to tell the tale. More Puerto Ricans have been drafted into US wars than men living on the mainland. Why? Because we're those dark-skinned Spanish-speaking people from that little third world country in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and thus are less important. When they started talking about a draft for the Afghanistan War, I was terrified: my brother, myself and my boyfriend at the time were within the age limit. I don't know if it was talked about here on the mainland, but they were talking about drafting men AND women on the island. You don't know what it's like to experience that level of fear firsthand. The draft did not happen but I got to watch the husbands and boyfriends of dear friends who were in the Army and the National Guard get sent over there before they sent anyone from the mainland. Some of them returned, some of them did not.
  • My dad is Cuban but is a US citizen. He joined the Army through the ROTC while still in college in PR and has stayed in the Army throughout his entire life; he is now in the Army Reserves and has been a colonel for a couple of decades. When he has been sent to war, he has gone as a medic. He served in the Gulf War. The reason why I was born on the mainland in Oklahoma is because that's where we were stationed at the time. He has an easy time pretending to be something he is not because he is fair skinned, has green eyes, speaks perfect English, and wears a mustache like Tom Selleck. He actually looked a lot like Tom Selleck when he was younger. When he speaks in Spanish all the Cuban comes out.

That's my dad. What do you think?
Does he look like your stereotypical Hispanic?
He is actually a typical Cuban. Most Cubans are this fair.
  • My brother lives in OH. He married a very white, very blonde US girl. My brother is as fair-skinned as Charles, with light brown hair. All of his friends in OH call him "The Mexican" because our first language is Spanish. It is a joke now because his friends actually do know that he's not really Mexican, but in the beginning it wasn't. When he first arrived in the state, people really did assume that he was Mexican. He would explain that he is Puerto Rican and it is not the same thing. Everyone insisted that it IS the same thing. This is 21st century Ohio and I'm including the city of Columbus in this because that's where my brother lived for his first year over there. So my brother was not accepted by the US people (because I refuse to call them "Americans" because we are ALL American: it includes Canada, Central and South America. The US is not the only America) because he spoke Spanish and he was not accepted by the Hispanics because he was too white. In fact, black people would spit at his feet as he walked by because that's how fair his skin is. He worked at a call center for a while and he simply told people on the phone that his name was Carl. (His real name is Carlos.) Because he speaks perfect English, no one could tell on the phone that he was Hispanic. 

That's my brother.
The lighter streaks in his hair are natural highlights.
And this is him when he cut off all his hair.
Does he look like a stereotypical Puerto Rican to you?
Didn't think so.
  • Speaking of Columbus OH, a good family friend who also happens to be a fair-skinned Puerto Rican did her Master's degree at the University of Columbus. She has a name that doubles well as an English name, speaks perfect English with barely an accent, has white skin and dark curly hair. And STILL, the level of prejudice and racism she experienced there was beyond compare. She hated living there and hightailed it out of there as soon as she was finished with her degree. 
  • When I applied for my first job in Tampa, FL, at a GYM, I had to check that little box on the job application that said "Hispanic" under "Ethnic Group." Because of that, I was asked for my work visa. I explained that I am Puerto Rican. I had a US passport, a US driver's license, and a US social security number that I showed them. They still wanted my work visa. I brought them a copy of my US Oklahoma birth certificate because I wanted to prove a point and get them to shut the fuck up. My blood still boils remembering that. 
Every single person in this photo is Puerto Rican.
See if you can find Charles and me.
  • While living in Tampa FL, Charles and I were walking around Walmart one day buying groceries and chattering away in Spanish like we always do. A tall white middle-aged guy with a cowboy hat and Western boots walked up to us to ask us what language we were speaking. I told him Spanish. He said, "You're Mexican? That doesn't sound Mexican." I told him, "Because we are not Mexican. We are Puerto Rican. We speak Spanish but our accent and our slang are different." It is, in fact, so different that if a Mexican and a Puerto Rican speak in slang to one another, they will never understand each other. Just like a US person trying to talk to a native of the UK in slang. Both English, both very different versions of it.

  • My Puerto Rican grandmother was once asked by a friend from the US if she could make her a Hawaiian grass skirt because she had always wanted one. We don't wear freaking Hawaiian skirts in PR, have NEVER worn them, and we don't know how to make them. Hawaiian skirts are worn in HAWAII.
The grass skirts are a tradition of the hula dance.
This photo is of a Hawaiian girl posing before her hula class in 1916.

We wore white cotton skirts and danced bomba and plena to the African drum.
The clothes were a mix of both African and Spanish influence.
And you know who invented twerking??? It was PUERTO RICANS, not effing Miley Cyrus!
We've been shaking our asses with tons more style and class for CENTURIES.  It's called culeo, people.
  • In Aguadilla, near one of our local beaches, there is this beautiful treehouse that is a sort of tourist and local's attraction. I visited it one time and sent pictures to Charles while we were still dating long-distance. He showed the pics to his US friends in FL and told them that we all lived in tree huts on the island. His friends believed him. 
Parque de Colon in Aguadilla, PR.
And no, we do not live in tree houses. Nor grass huts.
Our houses are made of concrete to withstand the yearly hurricanes.
  • While living in Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio TX, we were always treated well. No racism or prejudice to be encountered...mainly because there is such a huge Mexican community there. Everyone welcomed us, but they assumed we were Mexican. My mom and dad were invited to dinner one time by a friend of my dad's and they served this huge Mexican spread. The friend's wife said, "I'm sure this is not like what you cook at home, but we wanted you to feel welcome." My parents appreciated the gesture as it was very well-intended but my mom mentioned, "I'm sure it is wonderful; I don't cook Mexican either." It became a joke among them. The food was wonderful indeed and they all stayed good friends of course. But the assumption that Puerto Rico = Mexico was there, even among these people that were doctors working for the military. For the record, Puerto Rican food is as far from Mexican food as British food is from US comfort food!
Mexican food.
Puerto Rican food.

Very different flavor profile...
If you get this joke you know what I'm talking about. ^_^
  • The assumption that all Latinos and that people from other Spanish-speaking countries are Mexican never ceases to sting because it is a tremendous hallmark of ignorance. I personally am not offended, I just feel sorry for you because you don't know any better. There are Latinos out there that will take offense, though. So please, don't assume that a person is Mexican just because they speak Spanish!
My mom and me.
My mom is 100% Puerto Rican and 100% fluent in English. She took English from kindergarten through college just like every other Puerto Rican that receives an island education. She then lived in the continental US for 14 years while married to my dad. Her English is now rusty and she has a more prominent accent from not using it, but that doesn't mean she can't speak it or understand it. The time she visited us while living in Tampa, she came out to the barn with me. One of the boarders assumed that she knew no English and started speaking to her very loudly and very slowly in the broken English that is associated with Tonto in the Lone Ranger. I came thisclose to smacking said boarder.
  • When Donald Trump called all Mexicans rapists during his speech I wanted to smash the TV. Because that's the kind of ignorance that also believes all Spanish speakers are foreigners. That believes we are all illegal immigrants. Specifically from Mexico. You know what? Even if a Puerto Rican is born on the island (like my brother and Charles), we are still US citizens! Why? Because it is a US territory! You can't deport us anywhere!
My brother and my husband: two Puerto Rican Carloses that are US citizens.
  • I have a coworker who would ask me questions about our culture and the island. She was very honest about how she had been brought up (she grew up in the outskirts of Pittsburgh) and her questions would have been considered offensive by someone else. She honestly wanted to know so she could put all of the false notions she had been taught to rest, and thus I was never offended. She ultimately told her husband that she wanted to visit PR and he was incredibly surprised; he told her that she had already been to Nepal and this had to be a similar experience.

She spent a couple of months in the parts of Nepal that look like this, volunteering at a spay/neuter clinic.
  • I burst out laughing and told her, "Oh, he thinks PR looks like this." And I pulled up photos of PR in the 1930s, when roads were dirt, horses were used to pull carts, and people wore straw hats to work in the sugarcane fields. She said, "Yes, that's what he's picturing." 

What 70% of the US population thinks Puerto Rico is like in the 21st Century.
This photo is from a collection picturing the island from 1898, when we became a US colony, until 1946.
So I pulled up pictures of PR now and her jaw dropped. 

This is someone's house.
You can stay at this hotel.
Hotel El Conquistador in Fajardo, PR.
If you can afford it, because it is a Waldorf Astoria hotel.
Even the old historical parts are beautiful, like this random street in Old San Juan...
...and the gorgeous Gallery Inn.
  • Even with me educating her, it was still hard to let go of all of those false assumptions that had been drilled into her. For the record, this tech is a wonderful human being whom I had tremendous fun working with when we were on weekends together. She is a tech but she has a Physics degree and her husband literally is a rocket scientist. He currently works helping develop prosthetics for the human medical field. He just came up with one that allows the user to move the appendages with their mind, just like they would fingers of flesh and blood. They are not ignorant country bumpkins, yet the assumptions are still there. It is because of her that I like to periodically do posts about the island on the blog because I know it blows some people's minds. It is my way of educating. 

OH look at that! We have MALLS.
And yes, that's a Macy's behind the escalator.
I have yet to encounter a mall in the continental US as beautiful as our Plaza Las Americas.
Oh look at that! We can also shop at the Gap! Who knew.
  • Speaking of blowing people's minds, I get a huge kick out of telling people I am Puerto Rican. It's why I have it on the sidebar there on the right of the blog. The assumptions and racism and prejudice are alive and well, and it is incredibly fun to watch some people's expressions change when they realize that I am literally the opposite of what they imagined: I have fair skin (in winter...), I have straight hair, I have a minimal accent and I can write English better than they do. (Let's not talk about my issues with seeing "isle" used to describe a barn aisle by people who only know one language...) Preconceived notions = crumbled. I have had people accuse me of being a liar. It's easy to prove though: all I have to do is barrage them with my lightning-fast Spanish. But even the Latin Americans at work are surprised when they learn I am one of them. It is the double-edged sword of being a lighter-skinned Hispanic. You get the best of both worlds but also prejudice from both sides when you are a fair-skinned Latino outside of your native country. 
In my darker "summer coat" hanging out with the family dogs back in PR.
You don't get to see me naked, but my barn tan tells the story: my base skin color is pretty damn fair.
You see that white doofus playing in the water fountain?
That's Charles. His base skin color matches that single white cloud in the sky.
A close-up of Charles's eyes: dark gold around his pupils, blue towards the edges of his irises.
You see these two here? That's Vaquerito and Mio, our best man and maid of honor at our wedding.
Both of them are Puerto Rican.
  • A lot of Latinos are mulatto in color from the mix of Spanish and African blood. And a lot of us have very strong Spanish blood. There are some Spanish people (Spanish as in from Spain), that have a lot of Arabian and African blood in them from the heavy Moorish and Moroccan influence in some regions of Spain, especially Southern Spain. I had a close friend growing up whose family originated from Northern Spain. She was white as a ghost with pale gold eyes and blonde hair. They called her "the albino" in school. She wasn't albino; her family simply originated from a particularly white Spanish area. My family on my mother's side is directly from Spain. We tan. We are fair-skinned but we can tan pretty dark. And we have dark hair; I am the one with the straightest hair in the family but most of my family has wavy hair. So when we tan, we kind of look Arabian/Muslim/what-have-you. Especially those in my family that have curlier hair. What does this mean? That right after 9/11 I had family members that were detained at US airports and accused of being Afghan. Why? Because of the color of their skin.
Adam Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican actor. (Not a relative)
Kayvan Novak, an *Iranian actor.
*Not saying Iranians are bad nor anything of the sort. They are not! My point is to show the similarities in skin, features and hair between the average Puerto Rican and people from the same general part of the world as the UAE, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, etc. Prejudice against them affects us directly simply because we look like them even though our cultures, languages and religions are completely different! 
  • Speaking of 9/11, Charles used to love wearing berets. He moved to Orlando from the island shortly after the Afghanistan war started. An idiot in Orlando saw him wearing his beret and tried to beat him up. Why? He thought Charles was French. Because of a beret!
Yes, he does look like a French boy when he wears it...

...because people in this country assume that all French men look like this!
Guess what? THEY DON'T!
  • We are very, very lucky to now live in a region where people are educated, politically correct, and familiar with people from a huge variety of other countries. We LOVE where we live because of this. This is the first time since moving to the US where I can consistently say where I come from and people actually KNOW what I'm talking about! They know PR is a US territory, they know we are citizens, and they often have even visited the island. It is incredibly refreshing. 

My point with all of this is this: because of the color of our skin, myself and my husband, my brother and my dad, all get by with a little less prejudice than your average Latino that fits the stereotype. But there is still prejudice and when I see my darker-skinned brethren and African Americans being threatened by white supremacy idiocy, it both frightens and enrages me. 

If prejudice doesn't affect you, lucky you. Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean it doesn't affect a whole bunch of us that choose to live in this country. And for the record, just because your skin is white and your only language is English doesn't mean you are a native. Your family came from somewhere else too: Norway, Finland, Scotland, England, Germany, Ireland, Hungary. People of white skin in this country are also mutts. Just like us Spanish-speakers. 

The only true natives in this land are these guys: 

It is sad that I have to use this photo that plays to their stereotype...

...because if I had just used this one, the average person would assume that they are Mexican!
This is a photo of Captain Pratt with Native American captives.
My point: Native Americans are not white and their first language was not English.

So it gives me the warm fuzzies to see this happen:

Because it means that love wins. Love for our fellow human, regardless of color, race, sex, language spoken, and sexual preference, wins

And that, my friends, is one hell of a happily forever after.


  1. First of all... a-freaking-men!

    I love your controversial posts because they're so well researched. You always have sooooo much intellectual information backing your opinions, and even when I already agree with you (like this post), I learn so much in the process. Thank you!

    I always love learning more about PR (and it's now top of my to-visit list!)

    Mike sees a lot of these situations first hand every day. He works with Costa Ricans and they get so many hateful "Mexican" comments. They also get harassed and accused of being 'dirty illegals', even though they're all on the books and have their paperwork squared away (and some are citizens!) With PR actually being a US territory, I imagine those comments bother you even more so. UGH!

    I have had people make nasty comments at me for being born in Poland (and because my parents have accents). My dad gets the 'scary Russian' thing thrown at him (even though he's not Russian!) I am lucky I suppose because I am white and have lived here almost my entire life. People don't know I'm "foreign" unless I tell them. But when I was younger, it was a frequent issue.

    I agree with you re: the flag. I also agree that the people slapping it on their trucks are mostly 'redneck pride' types, and often fall into the racist/hateful category. You could argue 'freedom of expression' or whatever. Sure, if a guy wants to be a prick and fly that flag on his own porch, he can feel free to be an idiot. That's one thing. But having it fly at a capitol building in state? That's something else entirely, and absolutely needs to stop! Put it in a museum, thanks!

    1. First, I am so happy you enjoy my controversial posts! ;) I loved your comment Dom!

      I had not realized that there was a thing against the Polish until I met my friend Mark in FL. He was born in the US but his parents are Polish and he had a huge chip on his shoulder about it. I had no idea that there was a "P" word for the Polish just like there is an "N" word for African Americans, just like us Spanish speakers get called "Spiks." My reaction to it was, "Really? Is there anyone in this country that *doesn't* receive some sort of discrimination?" It is astounding considering that the big selling point of the US is supposed to be that it is "the land of the free" and that it is a big melting pot of different cultures. Being oppressed because you are different is not the equivalent of freedom. I find it sad that it is considered a natural part of living here. I sometimes think about how different things might have been if my skin had been darker, if my accent had been more pronounced, if I had struggled with English. In any or all of those cases, I might have insisted Carlos move back to PR instead of me coming to him in the US.

      I'm not sorry I'm here though. Never. I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't left. I wouldn't be with Carlos, I never would have met Lily, I never would have started the blog nor met all of the amazing people I have gotten to know thanks to it. Like Liz and Karen and you! And I finally have seasons. Snow! And I have met some truly incredible people IRL that I would never have met otherwise. Mark, Dianne, Diana, Kathy, Zoe, Tina, and so many others, the BMs and BOs...I got to hang out with the in-laws extensively (they drive me batty sometimes but they are truly wonderful people), I got to learn dressage (a decade ago it was near impossible to find dressage instructors on the island), I became a vet tech, I got to participate in endurance. So much good has come out of being here! I wouldn't change any of it.

    2. I wouldn't change living here either. I have found that when I voice any sort of disdain at any part of American culture, I am likely to be told to 'go back where I came from'. *eye roll* And yes, the P word exists. And, most people have no idea that it's offensive! I have pretty thick skin in general, but I have to agree with you... there doesn't seem to be anybody here who doesn't get discriminated against one way or another!

  2. Great post and I love reading your stories about PR. While I do know it is a territory and that it doesn't look like your first picture, I admit to not knowing much else about the island or its history.

    Living in SC and being a "Yankee" is an interesting thing. There are a ton of people that, if I wasn't their doctor, would treat me like crap because of it. Southern pride runs strong down here for better or for worse. I like history and I hate to see it swept under the rug because we don't agree with it. You can learn a lot from the past. I love America and I despise people who live here, earn money here, benefit from our system and trash it. Go live somewhere else if you don't like my country. You aren't being forced to live here. That being said, the only flag that belongs on any public building is the American flag or your state flag. That's it. Any special interest group can have their own building, private property, cell phone case etc... It doesn't belong on the state building, library, school outside of a museum. Do I think it is right to have the confederate flag on your cell phone case? No. I don't. I think it is hurtful and hateful but hey that's part of living here. Free to be an asshat if you wish.

    1. I completely agree! And I've said the same thing: most people come here by choice. If a person doesn't like it, they can always leave.

      With the island, I only ask that people know it's a territory and that it's located somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Thank you for knowing that. :) I don't expect anyone here to be able to specifically point it out on the map. Some Puerto Ricans like to think we are the navel of the world and that everything revolves around us; it doesn't and I'm not one of those people. ;) And I actually immensely enjoy educating people that are curious about us. Part of that comes from having family members that are avid historians.

      We get US history drilled into us all the way from elementary school to college, but I don't expect people in the mainland to know about our history. It doesn't get taught in school here and that's okay. I too hate to see history swept under the rug just because we don't like it; it shouldn't be, precisely because we can learn from it and past events are what shape our present and future. It's always fascinating to see where notions, thoughts and entire cultures come from. In college for my major I had to take 2 history courses. Most people would choose PR and US history because they were easy. I was the weird one and chose Brazil and Caribbean history because I knew nothing about Brazil's story nor about our neighboring islands. It was fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. (Especially Brazil... Brazilian history is *so* freaking cool!) And it helped understand why people of other cultures are the way they are. I wish there was room in US curriculums to teach children about other countries, not just about where they are on the map. It would really change the way our society sees people from other countries. I think that would be the greatest key to change, far more so than banning a flag of hate. If people learned from an early age to not hate others because they are different, no one would feel the need to discriminate others because of their race, color, language, sexual orientation or country of origin. It would be a beautiful thing.

  3. Awesome post :D

    I have so much I want to respond to in this post, but chores are calling so I'm going to try to rein myself in. ;D

    As much as I agree about not promoting hate and prejudice with the confederate flag, the very cynical side of me is afraid that restricting freedom of expression / 1st amendment rights and or the sale of that symbol is only going to inflame the haters even more.

    Yes - the confederate flag has no place being flown over any public building or promoted by any governmental agency - period. If private citizens desire to display their hatred and ignorance, it is their constitutional right. I personally consider display of the confederate flag an excellent early warning system and head the other way whenever I come across it.

    I fear that pulling down a few flags is a (tiny) concession happening instead of real true change regarding racial, social and economic equality. Sadly, the backlash may only serve to ingrain hatred further in the minds of the ignorant, which - as you have pointed out - are numerous in this country.

    To finish up - full disclosure. I am a southerner whose background includes family who fought for the confederacy, owned property where a critical civil war battle was fought and was occupied by union forces. If anyone has the "heritage" excuse it's me. Also I'm a landscaper who spends all day outside. My skin is dark. Last week someone "jokingly" asked me if he could see my green card. So then there's that.

    1. THIS. All that you said. YES. Yes yes yes. I want to copy-past each of your paragraphs and say, "Yes! Amen." :D

      This is precisely why I'm NOT against civilians being forbidden from displaying the Confederate flag: because it works as a warning system. Because it is freedom of expression. Yes please. And also because if civilians were forbidden from being able to display it, I'm also pretty sure it would just be more fuel for the fire of hate. It's not just your cynical side that thinks that: my practical side completely agrees!

      In more full disclosure, my family on my mother's side was very powerful a couple of decades before I was born. My mother's parents were wealthy enough to be able to afford a chauffeur to drive my mom, uncle and aunts to school. My grandfather bred his own horses. Both of my great-grandparents on both my maternal grandmother's and maternal grandfather's side were mayors. My great-great grandparents owned half of the PR metropolitan area which are 2 major island cities today. Back in the day, my relatives had huge sugar cane plantations and cattle. At one point they had slaves too. There is a whole line of people who share my mother's last name (it is a very rare name; everyone with that last name is family) who are also descended from Africans. My mom discovered it during roll call in college one year. She didn't know.

      I know there is some sort of tremendous irony there, but I can't express it in a philosophical way at the moment. The irony is not about experiencing the sting of prejudice now, it's about the fact that despite that background, I still think civil rights should be equal for all human beings.

  4. Support for the Confederate Battle Flag because it symbolizes Southern life is a fallicious argument. The Confederates were rebelling because they did not want to give up the ability to make their living owning, buying, selling and breeding other human beings. At least call it what it was: what the original men who signed the documents said it was: a defense of slavery. If you are okay with that, and you are okay with how the flag was used during the Civil Rights movement, then by all means, support the flying of the Confederate Flag. But don't lie to yourself about what it is or isn't

    We cannot turn away from the similarities in how the Swastika flag of Nazi Germany and the Confederate Battle Flag have come to symbolize White Supremacy. If you support the flying of either of those flags then you are an advocate of White Supremacy. If that is your cause, then say so.

  5. Let's at least be honest and stop making pseudo intellectual arguments to defend the system of slavery in the US. White men owned, bought, sold and breed black people. They also raped, murdered, lynched (look up ceremonial lynching if you think the Southerners played nicely with their belongings) beat, burned and cut into pieces their slaves. First off, we need to honestly address what our slave system was in reality. Second, we owe it to the descendants of our slavery process to honestly face how incredible destructive and violent the culture of slavery was in the US and how that still plays out in the lives of Black Americans today. Third, I'm pretty sure that my sixth generation removed grandmother who was born on a plantation in Georgia of a plantation owner and a black slave would tell you that there is no such thing as a "kindler, gentler" form of slavery. Our US ancestors owned Indian and Black people to make money. So they didn't have to pay a wage for work done on their plantations. We owe it to our fellow citizens to honestly face what that meant and what it means today.

    An argument has been made that slave owners had come to realize that slavery was wrong and just didn't know how to fix it (the same slave owners who were kinder and gentler, I'm sure). I do not believe that there were many, many slave owners who had come to believe that the buying, selling and breeding of black people was wrong, considering they committed treason against their fairly elected government to protect that way of life. They weren't fighting to keep their families intact, or their lands in their procession, they were fighting for the right to own slaves. To breed slaves. To force black women to have half white babies, because a lighter skin tone was of higher demand on the auction block. And MADE THEM MORE MONEY. And of course they treated their slaves as valuable, since they were valued PROPERTY. And I do not believe there was ever, in the history of the world, any more dehumanizing exploitation of humans. Ever. Unless it was the calculated process of eliminating the Indians from the continental US.

    When you say you support people flying the Confederate Battle Flag and that they can fly the flag without being racist: I call bullshit. Our current culture is seeped in racism and I believe the brutal murders of Black men by white police officers is a direct blacklash of White Power and White Superiority against having a black man in the White House. You can either take a stand against the ongoing destruction of Black lives or you can continue to blind yourself to the real meaning behind flying the Rebel flag. There is no great Southern culture: there is a legacy of White supremacy. When the argument is made that the Confederate Battle Flag symbolizes Southern culture it completely denounces any impact, any contribution that the multitudes of black folk living in the South may have brought to the table. Because I can tell you that Black people don't view it as symbolizing themselves. And so it really is only a symbol of White Southern Culture. It is a Romanticized Lost Cause: the lost cause of slavery. Of superiority. Of White Supremacy.

    Our culture is NEVER going to change if we, as white citizens, don't recognize the debilitating effect the Confederate Battle flag has on our fellow citizens. It's not a symbol of hospitality: it is a symbol of violence done to our fellow man through the act of slavery and through the long battle for equal rights. It was a symbol of segregation. There was no "War of Northern Aggression", there was no "kind, gentle" slavery. And separate is not equal. Ever. It is about time that white people stand up and say no more.

    Black Lives Matter: the Confederate Battle Flag does not.


  6. People of Color, gays, lesbians, transgendered people all have the right to live without fear, for that is what our country is predicated upon. The rule of law must be applied to all people equally. Advocating the flying of the Confederate flag does not add to the conversation we as a Nation need to have: the best and most fair way to dismantle the subtle, rampant, terrifying truth of racism in our country today. This is something that most white people can choose to look away from. They can use their privilege to pretend that there's some chasm between history and the present. When we deflect our white culpability in the society that brought us to this point, we lose the catalyst for sustainable change. We need voices raised that understand and acknowledge the truth of systemic racism in our culture.

    Those voices are the voices of the descendants of slaves, the voices of the Indians forced onto reservations that were made smaller and smaller by the predations of greedy white men. The voices of the descendants of the internment camps, the survivors of gay bashing and the survivors of rape. We need to listen to the people of color who have stories of discrimination and pain and powerlessness to share, instead of blowing off their experiences with a casual comment about never having to face prejudice. Not having to deal with these issues is the pinnacle of white superiority.

    It is time to get real and stop defending the bullshit. Make a decision in what side of this fight you want to be on, because it is a fight. It is a fight that is costing us the lives of black men whose only crime is walking down the street while listening to music, at the hands of white men who were sworn to protect and serve. The inference in that oath is protect and serve everyone. Not just the white ones. You can be part of the solution or you can continue to defend and protect the problem.

    Your choice.

    1. Thank you Karen! This is an excellent argument. And I wish there had been groups of people to defend some of the other oppressed nations/races/cultures in history that do not exist anymore because of said oppression and extermination. Like the Caribbean natives who have been extinct for a couple hundred years now.

      *Note to readers: this is not directed at me; it is directed at people who really think the way Karen describes in these comments. It has been interesting to see what the flag debate brings out in people, and it is sad to read what some people have to say and think, "Ah, there it is. The prejudice shows its true colors and tries to disguise itself as something else."

  7. This isn't a controversial post at all--but the truth.

  8. wow.

    So many thoughts.

    First and foremost - I am SO VERY SORRY for the experiences you've had with Columbus. I'm especially embarrassed with the experiences at OSU. The main campus is extremely diverse and, I've always thought, very welcoming, receptive, and eager to engage all people. My mind is basically blown. I'm dying to know if the other experiences were in the suburbs or closer to the downtown area. I am so sorry for how Columbus has represented itself. We obviously have so much work to do.

    I also don't understand how people could think that the PR is remotely like Mexico. what is wrong with people? I would never assume that because someone speaks a foreign language that sound similar, to my uneducated ear, to another language that they hail from the same locale. That's JUST RUDE! (sorry for all these caps, I'm just flabbergasted).

    I just don't get it. How can people think it's remotely fine to treat fellow people like this? WHY ARE PEOPLE SO IGNORANT? I honestly never would have thought you would have been subjected to this racist/ignorant/moronic behavior in the states- what a giant bubble I have been living in. Good grief.

    Also - as for the Confederate flag debate. There is no debate, it needs to come down and exist only in museums and history books. I don't understand (apparently a lot of things) how it can still be used today, publicly, and the argument made that it's NOT a constant reminder of slavery, racism, brutality, segregation, etc. There's not one true positive connotation with that flag. Here up north, we typically view people who fly that flag or have it on their cars/houses/etc, as racist, ignorant rednecks/hillbillies.

    We are so not a progressive nation.

    1. Thank you for your comment Sarah!! :) And no need to apologize, though I do appreciate it! I know that thankfully not everyone is like that!

      Sadly, my brother's experiences and my friend's were all within the city itself. He now lives in the country in OH in a tiny little town and he is more accepted there than he was in the city. My friend moved to South FL where she is a college professor. She is another whose Puerto Rican husband is in the military: he is in the National Guard. Which just makes the whole situation worse, you know? It's sad, especially because I know some amazing OSU graduates! The best equine vets I've had have all happened to be from OSU.

      Yup, the general opinion of people that fly the Confederate flag is that they are ignorant racist rednecks. It's a view shared by people outside of this country too. I wish it wasn't a debate; the significance of the flag's use is so crystal clear!

      Thankfully 99% of the people I have met during my 10 years here in the States have been warm, welcoming and educated. And when they haven't known, they have been unafraid of asking questions in their willingness to learn. I'm happy to educate, to explain, because I truly believe that when people know about something, when they can better understand it, the assumptions disappear. It's hard to be prejudiced against something when you understand it.

  9. I learned so much from your post about the confederate flag (and other historical topics!)....honestly I had no idea what the flag really meant. In Canada we kind of gloss over US history in school. I have seen some hillbilly types out in the country around here who put it on the back window of their trucks.

    I hope that the recent changes lead to improvement, there is still more work to be done.

    1. Yeah, the happily ever after is going to be a long work in progress. Positive, progressive change seems to unavoidably stir the pot of negativity as well. *sigh*

  10. I did not know about the confederate flag's resurgence for pro-segregation in the 50s. And I agree that racism is still very widespread in our society.

    1. I'd love to think things will be better in another 50 years...

  11. Hi, Saiph! I haven't been around in a long time (too busy with regular and freelance jobs) but I wanted to get caught up with some of my favorite bloggers. As always you have not disappointed - thank you for the extremely erudite discussion of the Confederate flag brouhaha and the fascinating, but sad, illumination as to the kind of prejudice and discrimination you and your family have experienced. On behalf of all my fellow US mainlanders who persist in acting like Stone-Age idiots, I apologize.

    I grew up in NJ but moved to the Midwest 30 years ago, starting out in good old Columbus (I graduated from OSU and then worked there afterwards for six years). I am sorry I didn't know how many closed-minded people lived there. I dated one, I can tell you that, and one of the reasons I broke up with him is because I figured out he was ridiculously prejudiced!

    Following Columbus I moved to Nashville, TN. Now I didn't ever get "Yankee go home" stuff said to me, fortunately, but believe me - you knew you were in the South. I lasted five years and then was really, really ready to leave the land where seeing Confederate flags flying was the usual thing. I loathe them for several reasons - the racism angle (which you explained so well) and also because to me the Civil War is the greatest stain on US history, the saddest chapter of our nation's story. It was just tragic that we were slaughtering each OTHER. I didn't know that Robert E. Lee himself said to not display the Battle Standard any more - makes me respect him a lot!

    Anyway, thank you again for such an interesting and well thought-out essay. I'm going to go find out what happened to your poor Lily now! :(