More than a flag perpetuates racism

Look beyond the Confederate flag for the roots of racism and bigotry.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (The King Center)

SAN JOSE, Calif., June 25, 2015 – The tragic murders of innocent church members in South Carolina has once again ripped raw the senses of many good-hearted Americans. As more and more information about the alleged perpetrator of such a heinous act of violence begins to surface, it becomes increasingly clear that the 21-year-old man was acting out of hatred and that he had some insidious agenda that was larger in scope than the murders of Christians in their church. The grotesque events have sparked much heated discussion about whether the murders are evidence of racism and whether the Confederate flag should be removed from South Carolina’s capitol building and statehouse grounds.

It is possible that the residue of a very dark period of American history was resurrected as nine fine people were murdered in Charleston, S.C., last week. However, the action of one hater in the minority should not be a reflection of the majority of the good people in that state and throughout the entire region. Sadly, such acts of evil often reveal the true nature of a population, and what would have been accepted once as a normal part of reality is now rightly viewed as a horrible act of evil by a disturbed and demented creature of hate. A flag that was once viewed as a symbol of defiance, a link to rebel pride, can now be realistically seen as something antithetical to the bedrock values of America.

Perspective on this horrible act provides an understanding that the multiple murders reveal a residue of outright racial hatred that once existed on a widespread basis in South Carolina and the United States of America. Such action, now considered a monstrous act of evil, was once considered normal in this country, and such blatant intolerance of other human beings and their right to life and liberty was once taken for granted in the Deep South. The widespread public outcry denouncing such a brutal act demonstrates that a majority of Americans now can see this as act of evil and are not afraid to correctly identify what they see. This would not have happened 150 years ago.

Ironically, the day after the shooting in South Carolina, celebrations of Juneteenth honored the day in June of 1865 that Texas slaves realized their freedom for the very first time in American history. That day offered hope for blacks who had been treated as less than human for their entire lives up to that point. Yet, once slavery was considered “normal” by the white power structure of the U.S.  Despite newfound freedom, the reality and pervasiveness of racial bigotry and hatred persisted long after the Civil War. Anger, hate, and resentment took root in the South immediately after the white southern aristocracy was defeated. Former slave-owners simply adapted to their plight to retain political control.

Juneteenth celebrating freedom for all Americans

Many white southerners sought to displace their tribulations onto the heads of the former slaves because any retaliation against the Union Army of occupation during Reconstruction would not have benefitted the southerners. However, to maintain the power and control over their society, the old power brokers had no qualms about the outright intimidation and public humiliation of the blacks remaining in the South. It is one thing to possess some personal bigotry or racist sentiment, but quite another thing to establish a system of laws to see that such sentiment is entrenched and perpetuated within a society. One obvious symbol of defiance of values of individual freedom is the use of the Confederate flag.

In so many ways, different variations of the Confederate flag, or the old “Bars and Stripes,” represented a connection to the values of the Confederacy, a link to values that were totally opposite of declared American values. At the time of the construction of the Confederate States of America, the newly elected officials proclaimed their values and expressed their ideals. Jefferson Davis, the president of the C.S.A., stated that all men were not equal. Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, proclaimed that there was scientific proof that the black man was not equal to the white man. The political leaders came out of the closet to show their true colors.

Such internal attitudes did not evaporate after the Civil War; the bigotry simply slid below the surface or hid under the white sheets of Ku Klux Klan members. Such deep beliefs did not die, but were perpetrated throughout the southern society. The twisted ideas that worked to help the white southern aristocrats wield their authority and power during the Civil War, which stimulated the common poor white dirt farmers to unite and defend their precious southern lands, also worked after the war to maintain their control in the turbulent political arena of the South. These internal attitudes were secured and preserved by a core of the Democratic Party in the South.

If the Confederate flag is an outward symbol of the repression of truly American values of God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the Democratic Party in the Old South represented an entrenched and well-organized power structure that perpetuated the sentiments of bigotry and hatred in their domain. If Americans are looking in a very honest way at the symbols of repression, why not go all the way and identify the core of the effort to destroy the bedrock values of the United States of America? It is ironic that many Americans are enamored with the early founders’ having ties to the Masons, yet the interest in the hidden links between the Klan and the Democratic Party seems non-existent.

A question that needs to be asked at this point is whether genuine leadership exists in the contemporary American political spectrum to help in healing the horrors associated with crimes resulting from deep-seated hatred based on racial bigotry or religious intolerance. Certainly, the socialist-Marxist based model of marginalization, divisive rhetoric and unbridled violence has not assisted in the healing process. Such attempts instigated by “legitimized” elements in the society such as the New Black Panther Party or the various fragmented Communist parties around the country, and their leaders in high places have not helped in healing much of anything.

On the contrary, the flaming confrontational style of public figures like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson have not had the effect of healing racial strife, but instead have had the effect of enhancing strife and conflict between people of different races. Jackson should know better because he was more directly connected to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. However, Sharpton is someone who can be viewed as the antithesis of what  King preached and what he represented. Certainly, such leaders of the black community do not epitomize the genuine values of tolerance and non-violence that Martin Luther King Jr. taught.

A clear example is the recent misplaced comparison of Ferguson with Selma that reflects an ignorance of history that is unforgivable because it misrepresents reality. The officials who represented the “law” in the Deep South represented unjust laws perpetrated upon an entire race of people primarily due to their race.  Recent efforts by some leaders of the black community who are claiming there is similarity between the two events ignore the just laws applicable to all and condemn officials responsible for law enforcement because they are police officers.

From the office of the current president and his administration on down to local leaders within the black community who perpetuate such a distortion of truth and use the race card to enhance dissent and division, there is a concerted effort to distort the efforts and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his loyal adherents. Such tactics are not aligned with King’s dream. While in jail in Birmingham in 1963, he wrote, “Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends.”

Current political leadership does little to reflect such a maxim. In our fast-paced, superficially-oriented society, it is a danger that Americans could lose touch with the deeper essence of a genuine leader like King, Jr. He had true answers to an already divided southern society, and the answers often included faith-based, non-violent, civil disobedience.

King defined racism as a disease of the human heart. Some, unlike him, do not seek to heal the racism that exists in America; they seek to enhance it as a way to retain political power. If that may seem eerily familiar, let the truth set us free.

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Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at West Valley College in California. He currently writes a column on US history and one on American freedom for the Communities Digital News, as well as writing for other online publications. During the 2016 presidential primaries, he worked as the leader of a network of writers, bloggers, and editors who promoted the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson. He founded the “We the People” Network of writers and the Citizen Sentinels Project to pro-actively promote the values and principles established at the founding of the United States, and to discover and support more morally centered citizen-candidates who sincerely seek election as public servants, not politicians.