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“Confederate Lives Mattered” is exactly what the sign read. I know because I had to go back twice just to make sure I read it correctly. I haven’t been to church since it was cool, and I curse like a sailor in front of my mama, so it takes a lot for me to be shocked. But I tell you what, I was indeed just that. Was it the blatant biting or the blatant hypocrisy that had me so aghast? Honestly, it was both, and I find that praising the confederacy is, in fact, one of the most nonsensical things that far too many proud Americans do.
Growing up in Florida, stars and bars, the dixie flag, the Confederate flag (whichever name you want to use for it) was so ubiquitous it almost seemed innocuous. Like those donning it were too stupid to realize the cruelty they sported. But that’s the thing about cruelty; you don’t have to feel it for it to hurt someone else.
“Heritage not Hate” was often the response of friends or classmates when confronted with how damaging the insignia they wore was; a heritage of hate would have been a more correct response. A friend of mine, Matthew Hawn (who was also the teacher who was fired for showing my work to his class and whose family in Tennessee I was visiting when I saw the sign hundreds of miles down the road), told me he grew up learning that the confederacy fought a noble cause, or “states rights.” Teaching people that the Civil War was merely a grand disagreement between neighbors and ones who wanted to maintain their right to own someone is not only extremely dismissive but utterly untrue. If those soldiers’ lives really mattered, they could at least be truthful as to the reason they died.
Merely flying the American flag next to the flag of the confederacy is a slap in the face of logic. It is a curious thing to scream “Make America Great Again” while flying the flag of treason. While flying a flag that specifically represents war, and while some may argue that wars boost economies, they are generally not considered great by the actual residents of the country. How can someone call themselves a proud American while simultaneously considering the entity which tried to break from the United States just as worthy of their pride? How can they call anything divisive and become angered at the perceived disrespect of the national anthem when they themselves value America’s antagonist with the same fervor if not more than America? I mean, let’s be real. The Confederate Flag is the official flag of the losing team.
There is no honor in waving it.
When it comes to that sign: it is one thing to usurp a movement; it is another to do so to a movement their demographic denigrates on a regular basis. A group that fails to acknowledged that Black current lives matter wants to remind you that people who volunteered to fight to keep slavery are just as important as the descendants of those whom they fought to keep enslaved. I mean, unless the sign is referring to the many Black lives that became confederate soldiers against their wishes, but that is what happens when you are a slave; you know you have to do things you do not want to. I am not sure how many Civil War reenactments involve Black soldiers, but I do know that it is a mighty hefty audacity to tell Black people not to talk about slavery and then turn around and reenact battles from 150 years ago, just for funsies. Like, please, just get Cholera and grow up already.
Black Lives Matter was born out of the necessity to consider Black people as human, especially when interacting with the police. There is no uniform to Blackness. There is no stripping us of who we are and then throwing the uniform in the washer, and there was never a time when Black confederate soldiers were allowed to hang their Black up in the backs of closets and just be one of the guys. The Confederacy was a terrorist group, plain and simple; it divided a country, committed several acts of treason, enslaved, raped and pillaged, and forced other people to die for the right to keep…other people.
Black confederate soldiers were still seen as less than. Someone still had to be reminded of their humanity and that at any moment, they were at the whim and fancy of a white man in a uniform with a gun.
So, yeah. Confederate Lives Mattered…Confederate Black Lives.