Pitts: Sure, you can fly Confederate flag, but why?

Thu Apr 07, 2011

Myron B. Pitts

Sometimes, you have to see to believe.

On Monday, I drove by state Sen. Wesley Meredith’s house off Morganton Road on a tip he was flying the Confederate flag.

Sure enough, a version of the battle flag attached to the side of his home blew in the wind. The flag combined the familiar X of the rebel battle banner with the blue "N.C." field from the state flag.

Now, a man can do what he wants with his own property, within the law. And I have heard every conceivable defense for flying the racially charged rebel flag, a few of them reasonable.

But a state senator should know better.

I talked with Meredith, who was at the General Assembly in Raleigh on Wednesday, around noon.

He said the flag – which still was flying at that hour – belonged to his 16-year-old son, who initially had it on his truck.

He added: "The reason he took that flag off his truck, he was going to a funeral for one of his black friends."

His son removed the flag out of respect, then hung it at the house, Meredith said.

Meredith complained about living in a fishbowl.

"It was a youngster who had a flag on his truck," he said.

I don’t want to drag his son into this because responsibility rests with Meredith, who is not only a senator and public figure but the homeowner.

I asked him if he thought the flag sent the wrong message. He did not answer directly but said: "I never have believed in slavery. I don’t believe in slavery in any way, shape or form."

Of course not. But his comment shows he knows how the flag is perceived by some and yet still chose to let it continue flying.

He knows many black Americans consider the flag as representing hate, not just heritage, despite what apologists for the Confederacy say. He also knows the city in which he lives is 43 percent black, and his senate district includes many blacks in Cumberland and Bladen counties.

Perception counts.

Some people, fairly or not, will take a fresh look at Meredith’s motives in sponsoring legislation such as the Voter ID bill, which critics have said would hurt minority voting.

And blacks are not the only ones who view the rebel flag skeptically.

Many transplants here from elsewhere are not fans, seeing the flag as backward and frankly wondering why folks would celebrate a military defeat.

I tell non-Southerners: It’s complicated.

The Southern rock band Drive-By Truckers calls it the "duality of the Southern thing" – how the same fertile land can nurture civil rights champions such as Martin Luther King Jr. and inveterate racists such as Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose Ku Klux Klan chose the rebel battle flag as a symbol.

Back in the day, I played Dixie Youth baseball in a nearly all-black league, and we thought nothing of the patches on our sleeves that featured the rebel flag prominently. In fact, I so liked the Dixie Youth logo, I pasted a sticker of it on my bedroom window.

Those days are gone.

A co-worker of mine from South Carolina said, "It probably didn’t bother people then, but I think it’s probably good we’re not doing that anymore."

Well, most of us aren’t.

Copyright 2011  – The Fayetteville Observer,

On The Web:   http://www.fayobserver.com/articles/2011/04/07/1084474?sac=Home

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