Sunday, October 09, 2005
I'm Gonna' Stick My Neck Out...
It's not a turtle post.
Yesterday, I rode into town and there in the parking lot of the Megalomart was a pickup truck festooned with signs and bumper stickers. It was the professionally produced magnetic signs on either door that caught my eye.
They read: "Florida Cracker, an endangered species"
I smiled. I know what this guy is feeling. When a thousand people a day are moving into your state, they bring their own cultures and most don't really give a damn about what was there before. Sound historically familiar? Anyway...
I glanced up at the rear window of the pickup truck. I don't know how this guy could drive safely with every inch of the rear window plastered with the Confederate battle flag...the stars and bars.
My smile vanished.
Back in April, I thought long and hard before choosing my "nomme de plume". If you travel back to my very first post, deep in the archives, you will see that I was concerned that "cracker" was a loaded term and wrote a little disclaimer. My concern was that I would be judged by my pen name.
A little history. I grew up in the town Martin Luther King called, "The most racist town in America". Our sheriff, L.O. Davis threw him in jail. I met L.O. as a teenager, his nephew was my fishing buddy. As a small child in the early '60's, I saw the Klan with their robes, signs, and pipe sections outside Sears and Woolworths constantly. When you're little, you don't understand the big picture, but the impressions, like black and white snapshots linger.
I started school in 1964 in a pure white public school, the black kids had their own school across town. By the time I made it to 5th grade we had 3 brave, scared black kids in our school. Bare compliance with the desegregation laws.
In the 7th grade, (69-70) they got serious about integration and created a 7th grade school ...one...for the whole county. We would be bussed to what had been the all black high school and we would mix.
We mixed, we fussed some as we got to know each other, and then we went through the ensuing school years together and nothing would ever be the same.
Although I grew up with it, I let go of the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of my southerness many years ago. You may be surprised to know that I wrestled with that decision. The war was stupid (as are most) and the cause was wrong, but the boys that fought it did so out of love of their home. The average soldier was a poor dirt farmer's son, not a slave holding plantation owner.
There is a reason we send the young to war, they are impressionable and idealistic and not prone to question the big picture. It was true then, it is true today.
Most of us hold the beliefs we have simply due to the way we were raised. If you are christian, jew, moslem , or whatever...it's a good chance you are because your parents are the same. Those southern boys probably never questioned their cause. Hindsight really is 20/20.
I have a family member listed among the dead on the confederate war memorial in downtown St. Augustine. So I wrestled. I did not want to dishonor this boy's sacrifice. In the end I let it go. I don't even whistle Dixie any more.
For decades I have only seen the battle flag as a symbol of hate and ignorance, with the exception of those historical reenactments that would look pretty silly with the rebel reenactors flying some politically correct pseudoflag. It is okay to study history, it is not okay to change it.
So I have some history with race and racial attitudes in the south.
Today, I work with kids, mostly 7th graders. They are a wonderful patchwork of race and ethnicity. They are goofy...like we were back in 1970. They don't realize or appreciate how far we've come, because they are young. They tease each other, but disputes are mostly over girls, boys, ...normal, non racial things. They can't imagine a world of separate water fountains and restrooms, etc. I can, I was there. Change did not happen overnight with the passing of a law...it took years before those things were all gone.
GET TO THE POINT FC!
Point is, this guy with his Florida Cracker signs and his battle flag stickers is ticking me off by promoting a stereotype that I will just have to do battle with forever I guess. Guilt by association. I will just set the example and let you be the judge.
I'm really stubborn. I'm really Floridian. I'm really not letting go of this label.
Posted by R.Powers at 8:45 AM