A local musician, one of my colleagues, and some other people have been going on about how — if I understand them — it is unfortunate that Dylann Roof associated himself with the Confederate battle flag, because that flag has nothing to do with racial violence. It does have everything to do with their families’ apparently cozy and/or heroic pasts, which of course have nothing to do with racial violence.
It is an interesting contradiction … or is it just a cover-up? Of course that flag means what it means, and its wavers know that, but they say it just means “heritage” — ancestors that died — so they can keep waving it and feel well. OR: is it that the pain of defeat and occupation, which one can still feel in some little towns here, is great and one needs a symbol of defiance?
But I am being too kind, I think — people are nostalgic for the bad old days but will not say so as it is unfashionable, so they say contradictory things. I idly watched The Butler and there are problems with the film but it does do a good job of reminding one of how, quite recently, people got away with treating black people and of how difficult it was for them to navigate the situation. I thought, “These allegedly kind Confederates should watch what the butler has to go through, and then they will understand.” Then I realized, “No. Actually, they want to be the ones who put him through it.”
Southern culture means black culture and creolization, actually, and it is quite distinct from Northern culture. It also means living in the aftermath of slavery and apartheid. In this panorama that battle flag is the badge of a certain group, not of everyone. It seems that that group is the one whose identity is bound up in the maintenance of white supremacy, which is disallowed, so it is without content as it were, and it is writhing in pain therefore.
The expression of this writhing is baroque — so many conceits, so much surface talk, around a center that is either empty or that has to hide its contents. Talking to these people is like talking to people who are hiding something and I guess it is because they are. These are my fragmentary thoughts so far on this matter. Have you any?