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June 14, 2005

Comments

I'm not really sure that this can adequately be exlained to people not already intimately familiar with the South, but I think there's probably a lot less to this than you might think.

A noose has no apparent connection to race. I mean, sure, one can be inferred...but do you really believe he had a noose in his office to represent some racist belief of his? Or might it have been a reference to the whole "hanging judge" idea about law and order. Over the top, perhaps, but who knew he'd be psychoanalyzed for it?

The Confederate Flag thing is more complex. I've never been particularly keen on the Confederate flag--or for flags in general--but in the South we don't think of the Confederate Flag in racial terms. It's a symbol of a region -- a region that feels put-upon and constantly patronized by other regions, and probably tends to think of itself as "The South" as a result. People are incidentally aware of the history of the Confederacy, but that's got very little to do with why most people put up a Confederate flag.

Unfortunately, in other parts of the country, the Confederate Flag is seen in nothing but racial terms. And those people simply cannot understand that the Confederate Flag might not be a racial symbol to the people who like it.

Think of it this way: do you think Oliver Willis is a racist for liking the Washington Redskins? Do you think he's a racist for putting up a Redskins logo? And yet, the name "redskins" has overtly negative racial implications to many people.

That doesn't mean that owners of Redskins apparel are racist....it just means there's a disconnect over the inferences we're all making for a symbol.

I think Allen is being tarred unfairly here.

Jon,

"but in the South we don't think of the Confederate Flag in racial terms"

Do you think African Americans in the South would agree with this statement? I don't.

Many do, some don't. You might be surprised. The point is not how the people who don't like the flag view it, but how the people who do invoke/use/fly the flag view it.

Clearly, some who fly the Confederate flag are racist, and view the flag as symbolic of that racism. But do you really believe that people with the dixie flag in their window put it there because of their own racism?

As a northerner I view the confederate flag as a symbol of rebellion, treachery and failure. At some point the south needs to come to grips with its past. We are still suffering because of southern attitudes.

I'm a native southerner, 50 years old. In fact, I live in Albemarle County Virginia, not far from where George Allen proudly hung his confederate flag. Admittedly, the flag is a mixed symbol; as a high school kid, we put those plates on our cars because we were southern, not necessarily racists, but everyone was also well aware that the rebel flag was a symbol offensive to african americans. ("when I went to Richmond I left that thing on the front of my car and drove right through the middle of the colored section") But by the time I was in my 30's, I remember a discussion about the flag with a friend of mine, another native southerner, who had never been to college (but had admittedly been around a little) "That thing is just a symbol of ignorance to me now...It demonstrates ignorance by the pepole that put it up"
That's pretty succint, although I might substitute obstinant or insensitive for ignorant. The point is, as thinking southerners, we had come to know better. George Allen knows better; furthermore, he is not southerner, he's was raised in LA, and his mother was jewish. The UVA we attended in the early 70s was not a reactionary institution. George's use of the rebel flag, the noose, spitting tobacco, cowboy boots is more reflective of his Hollywood background, i.e. image creation. It is also code and blatant pandering to a white redneck constituency in the best Jesse Helms tradition.

George Allen has a long history of racism - going all the way back to his days as a student at Palos Verdes High School in California in the late 60's. I was in his graduating class and remember well the Confederate flags he displayed on his car's bumper -- this in a Southern California beach area. What he is best remembered for, however, is the anti-white graffiti he spray painted one weekend on the walls of the school to make it look like the work of blacks. His motive was to stir up some racial hatred toward the kids at a predominently black school our football team was slated to play that week. He was fingered by an accomplice and forced to apologize over the school PA. I don't remember what other punishment he may have received.

Given his history, his sudden interest in the anti-lynching resolution strikes me as self-serving, opportunistic, and a not-to-convincing way of making amends prior to a Presidential run. I hope the totality of past events keeps him off any future ticket.

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