I'm of two minds concerning the current debate over display of the Confederate battle flag. On one hand, I feel angry that we have coddled southern arrogance for the past 150 years. The south must finally accept that their cause was defeated, and that this defeat was quite deserved. I am unswayed by the argument that the Stars and Bars represents a "cultural" heritage, because I refuse to honor a culture based on racism and superstition. Thus, I'm glad to see stories like this one
On the other hand: The flag debate is really just a diversion. Once again, we are focusing our attention on a symbol rather than the thing-in-itself. Mary Frances Berry has it just right
By every concrete measure, ordinary African Americans have suffered during the Obama years. They have experienced double-digit unemployment rates even when overall unemployment rates subsided. Jobs in the public sector and in manufacturing, a historical haven for black workers, have been reduced; jobs in growing economic sectors have not materialized. Blacks are told they don’t have the skills even for jobs that don’t require skills, just on the job training. The Voting Rights Act and other measures to end education and employment discrimination have been undermined by the Supreme Court with no congressional relief in sight. Most significantly, the killings of unarmed African Americans by white civilians and law enforcement officers have become an almost common occurrence.
In 2008, we were repeatedly told by "progressives" (who, we now know, were whipped into a frenzy by David Axelrod's brigade of internet trolls) that Bill Clinton represented racism. A nonsensical charge. Under Clinton, the median income of African Americans rose by a third, and the poverty rates for black people fell to its lowest point ever.
For years, I've asked progressives to name a single black person not named Obama who has been made more prosperous by Obama. Well, there have
been a few: Eric Holder, for example. But the hard fact is that African Americans have fared poorly under this administration -- and instead of rectifying that situation, we are focusing on symbols.
A symbol is nothing more than a bit of graphic design that stands for something else, something real
. A symbol is a placeholder. It is not the actual thing.
Symbols do have a certain importance, but isn't it more
important to have some spending money in your wallet? Isn't it more important to be able to walk down the street without being hassled by the cops?