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What If We Were Talking About the Nazi Flag Instead of the Confederate Stars and Bars?

06/23/2015 09:07 am ET | Updated Jun 21, 2016

Imagine that the German region of Westphalia, which was briefly an independent kingdom, decided in the name of pride, history and heritage to fly the Nazi flag high and proud on government grounds. How would people there and everywhere react?

And imagine that when political candidates, TV pundits or government officials, when questioned about the giant swastika flapping over or even near their seat of government, said things like: "Oh this flag is just commemorating the bravery & sacrifices of our ancestors, who just did what they thought was right at the time. In no way does this imply that we want to go back to that time or consider non-Aryans inferior or are anti-Semitic or racist in any way? Why would you even think that?"

How sincere would those statements sound to you, especially if you fall into one of the many categories of non-Aryan the Nazis viciously persecuted using discriminatory laws? How threatened and insulted would you feel, especially if you were Jewish. How would you feel about the Westphalia government's so-called pride and nostalgia for a regime devoted to inequality if you had family members robbed, enslaved or killed in the Holocaust?

For blacks in America, it's hard for us to hear about your pride and nostalgia for a a way of life built upon the direct oppression and degradation of people like us, people who were or are our family members. Just to be clear what the Confederate States of America was about, here's a key segment of Article IV Section 3(3) of their Constitution:
"...the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress, and by the territorial government..."

Just in case you were confused about what that flag actually means. It means a group of states that committed treasonous acts and rebellion in pursuit of the continued right to buy and sell humans, to treat humans like animals (or worse) and to prevent certain humans, specifically black people, from enjoying the same rights as white people. It means that despite France abolishing slavery in 1794, Mexico in 1810, England abolishing slavery completely in 1833 and so on around the world, those living under the Stars and Bars decided to turn away from humanity and towards hate-based policies disenfranchising many members of their society.

The Confederate flag was flown (and still is) at Ku Klux Klan rallies - a terrorist organization whose central goal was to intimidate blacks into submission to racist Jim Crow laws. It was flown by those opposing de-segregation and mixed race marriage. It's hard for blacks to forget the hateful, violent things said and done while people held that particular banner high just a few decades ago and within the living memory of some. We can't help but be suspicious or nervous if you are wearing a Confederate belt buckle and a Stars and Bars flag in your truck's back window behind the gun rack. If you're black, you are made to feel at best uncomfortable and at worst threatened. That's in part because you're wearing that Stars and Bars t-shirt or displaying that Confederate license plate despite - or because - you know it makes black people at best uncertain about your belief in our full equality and at worst, uneasy that you might be planning to shoot our auntie at Wednesday night bible study for being black and "taking over your country", to paraphrase a certain young would-be race warrior.

Just as you would look with concern and suspicion at someone wearing a swastika and aggressively asserting their right to do so, despite your discomfort, I'd encourage those who desire deeply to celebrate their Southern pride to find other ways to do that. You could even invent a new flag like the LGBT community did - who doesn't love a rainbow? The South can, must and will adapt for a new century.After all, the demographics tell the story of a nation that is becoming more diverse, not less - more equal and less exclusionary.

The recent Supreme Court decision allowing Texas to refuse to sanction Confederate license plates came from a coalition of judges who know something personally about discrimination - women and those of Jewish, Latino or African-American heritage. Yes, Clarence Thomas, who has spoken frankly about his experiences with racism as a young boy growing up in a changing Georgia, decided to be on the side of the future instead of the past.

Most people would likely agree with Germany's decision to ban the Nazi flag and regalia to discourage nostalgia for a dark, discriminatory past and reduce hate. Today people in America are coming to agree - it's time to stop looking wistfully at a former "way of life" and walk together as one people under God into the future.