I would first like to commend the Cherokee High School students, protesting the ban on wearing Dixie Outfitters apparel, for their peaceful approach in demonstrating their feelings over the ban.
I recognize that high school is not the "real world". In fact, I would venture to say that todayšs high school is even further removed from the "real world" than mine was some 20 years ago. However, we are, as parents, educators, and a community, supposedly preparing our young people to take their rightful place as productive citizens in the "real world". Therefore, I would address my comments to those parents/students who found it necessary to complain about the Dixie Outfitters clothing and to those who addressed these complaints with such a swift and sweeping ban.
Tolerance is a two-way street. There can be no tolerance if one group is allowed to trample upon the rights/freedoms of another, even if the actions of one group are found to be offensive by another. In the "real world", there are offensive behaviors observed everyday. Yet, as adults, we move on, get over it.
I, too find certain things offensive like the window decals depicting the little boy peeing on whatever the vehiclešs owner dislikes, blaring rap music or lewd lyrics issuing forth from car stereos, clothing with degrading or crude slogans that some choose to wear. Yet, I do not find some entity in charge of such matters to complain and request that bans be implemented or that laws be passed. Of course not, because I live in the "real world" where people express themselves in different ways. It may not be something with which I agree. It may not be something I can believe, but it is this individuals right to express himself/herself. Yes, if I were to list everything I am offended by, even mildly, I could probably fill a page. However, life is too short, too precious to spend my time in such a manner.
The fact that a small group of individuals can infringe upon the rights of others offends my sensibilities as an American and most particularly as a native Southerner. As a Southern American, I cannot change what has come to pass. I cannot erase more than 200 years of slavery. I cannot remove the stain of racial hatred spilled upon the Confederate battle flag by those who would do others harm, not only because of race, but religion, ethnicity, and class. I can only live my life, respecting others as I would expect to be respected.
When Southerners wave the Confederate flag or demonstrate their pride in their heritage, they are told, "The Civil War ended in 1865, get over it." However, the suffering of the Civil War did not end for the South in 1865. This region of the country has only recently begun to fully recover from the long lasting effects of the war and the terrible Reconstruction period that followed. The majority of those who served, wearing butternut, gray, or homespun did not own slaves. Many at waršs end, returned to find their farms decimated, their families scattered to the winds, and, in some cases, insurmountable debts. Others did not return and to this day, their descendants wonder what happened to them and where they might be buried. These men (and women) grit their teeth and waded into their problems, working hard to make something come from nothing. They sought no help, but rather went quietly about the business of rebuilding their lives. It is their bravery, not only on the battlefields, but in the cornfields, tobacco fields, and cotton fields that the Southern American celebrates when he/she, in Southern pride, raises the Confederate battle flag in the air or wears it proudly displayed upon their clothing. And, it is right to do so because by the sweat of their brow, the new South was born.
When black Americans speak of the degradation their people suffered under slavery and how it has impacted their own lives, we, as a nation, are supposed to give credence to it, reverence it. Yes, slavery was a great and terrible thing. However, no nation on this earth has been without a period of slavery. Just as the returning Confederate soldiers fell victim to Reconstruction, former slaves fell victim to the abrupt end of slavery. However, todays American black cannot blame slavery for their plight any more than Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, or Japanese-Americans can blame their current situation on government policies of the past.
I would point the attention of all Americans, particularly those whose beliefs in political correctness is so strong that it impairs their common sense, to look at the Indian reservations out West. Established in the mid-1800s, these institutions house individuals whose ancestors were here for thousands of years prior to the white man. These proud people now exist at the mercy of a federal government that has no idea as to what should be done with them. Many of us do not wish to think of the degradation of these people for to do so would require us, in moral outrage, to cry out against this treatment. Instead, those who believe so strongly in political correctness will choose to ensure that black Americans are not offended by a symbol of history.
Am I the only individual who feels therešs a double standard in place here? My advice to these black Americans who are so sensitive? Slavery ended with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, get over it!
Sheila R. Simpson