He sat in class not doing the work assigned. Instead he kept drawing the same thing over and over and over again.
The Confederate flag.
There was one on his computer screen, too.
A Confederate flag with a rifle and in big black print “Come and Take It.”
It was a threat, of course. A double-dog-dare-you.
I don’t know if he is a nice kid or not. I don’t know anything about him other than that brief encounter where he wanted to show me what he was drawing. That same flag.
He was trying to get a reaction from me, I’m pretty sure. He knew nothing about me, either, though. Didn’t know at all that I grew up in the segregated South. That I was legally banned from attending school with people of color until my 10th grade year. Back then, I never thought about the wrongness of all that. When all you know is a white world, you can’t know what is missing. The stories. The language. The art. The music. The food. The goodness missing from your life. You can’t know what you don’t know until you know it.
I don’t know if kids growing up in the Pacific Northwest know what a volatile image the Confederate flag is. I don’t know if they even care. I suppose it is like anywhere else: Some do. Some don’t. I suspect many are attracted to it simply for its inflammatory and divisive messaging.
White Nationalism is the new (old) rebellion.
It’s a way for teenagers to rile up the old folks. Teens, who don’t know the definition of “states rights” or the “three branches of government”, hang the flag in the back window of their pickup trucks and drive around town raising holy hell with their broken muffler pipes. Some drape the flag across their bedroom window, blocking out the light, literally and figuratively. At least one home up the road from me flies a billboard-sized flag from a flagpole in their front yard.
I admit that seeing the embrace of the Confederate flag here in the Pacific Northwest is discombobulating. When I am in Georgia or South Carolina and I see somebody with a bumper sticker of the Confederate flag, I make immediate assumptions about that person – the first and foremost one is that they are declaring to the world that they are proud racists. I steer clear of those folks.
But here in the Pacific Northwest, I just don’t know what to make of the people who fly the Confederate flag, or post it to their computer’s wallpaper.
The schools here are pretty much already segregated. So are the neighborhoods. And the churches. Ask a native Oregonian or a transplanted Californian and they will likely deny that they are racist in any form or fashion, but certainly not racist like those folks from Georgia and Alabama, they’ll insist.
Maybe they are right. Maybe they aren’t racist.
But when a kid, any kid, is sitting in class drawing the same image of the Confederate flag over and over again, like a programmed bot, not contemplating anything of any depth – including the lesson he’s supposed to be learning, the one requiring critical thought – but is instead fixated on the guns he has stockpiled somewhere, we are all in much deeper dookie than we care to think about.
Can another Civil War be that far off?
Karen Spears Zacharias is an author of a lot of books. Most of them require critical thinking skills and a heart. Check them out.