I am a born and raised Southerner. I am also a proud Southerner.
I'm not entirely sure how I came to be such a proud Southerner, as my family wasn't overly into hospitality or grits growing up, but most everyone owns a gun or six and loves their mama. And biscuits. Being a proud Southerner is this overarching theme of growing up in the South. Like, a couple of hundred years ago someone from New York called someone from Birmingham an idiot for living in the woods or something and suddenly, we had to be more proud of our geographical location than anything else. Babies are spoon-fed Southern pride for breakfast down here. It's very much a love it and don't ever leave it mentality.
My family also has a deep and rich respect for history. We just love us some good, clean American history. Other than sports and our deep love for the One who saved us, American history is the one thing everyone that I lived with for 18 years can talk about for hours on end.
Growing up if we were in a car and within 8-12 hours of a battlefield of some sort, we stopped by it. Because of our geographical location these battlefield were usually of the Civil War type battlefields. After a few trips to other battlefields, like those old-school Revolutionary War sites, I am not sure there's much of a difference between any of them. There's a field, maybe a wall of some sort, an old cabin and a well-air conditioned visitors' center.
I don't remember feeling any sort of crazy amount of pride at any battlefield I've ever visited, usually just felt hot and mad that my mother was taking another picture of the above-mentioned field or wall.
I say all of this to lament the fact that I grew up in a home where education was important and knowing your family history and heritage was involved in that. We just happened to all grow-up below the Mason-Dixon Line. I imagine the same would've been true had my father decided to be an electrical engineer in Nevada.
No one in my home taught me that Southern pride had anything to do with the Civil War or the Confederate flag. No one in my hometown ever said, "would you like a side of the Confederacy with your biscuits this morning?" Sure, I saw those flags everywhere growing up, but I was never taught that being proud of your past meant you needed to cling tightly to a certain piece of cloth.
Somewhere in the middle of an afternoon viewing of a Civil War battle re-enactment, I remember learning that the South lost the Civil War and thinking that was good, because my mother's entire side of the family was from the North. I was young and my father was videotaping said re-enactment and I said to no one and the camera, "If Nana was here, she'd be rooting for the North." My parents asked me why and I didn't know and that was that. No one was all, "No, honey, your grandmother actually is a big supporter of states' rights and small federal government." No, everyone just kind of moved on.
I played sports growing up and by the time I got to high school I had probably lost more games as an athlete than I had won. There were a few of those games where really cool things happened and we could kind of celebrate, but mostly-- I was a big ole (team) loser. When your high school basketball team loses a game by 68 points there are no bright spots. I was taught that a moral victory is a band-aid to encourage you to do better during the next game-- it was not an actual "W." It was a loss. If you didn't score as many points as the other team, you lost.
The South lost the Civil War. Why would a group of people choose to still celebrate a war they lost, over 100 years later if it wasn't backed by something else? I know my facts and I know my history, I know how the war started, who started it and how it ended. These days, that flag doesn't stand for anything other than hate. That flag says to people-- let's get back to the 1860s when life was good.
No one who flies that flag outside of their home has made one proactive argument for states' right in their life. No, people who want smaller federal government are called Libertarians, not racists.
During the Civil War there were men who fought for their family, for their state, for what they believed in and they lost. You can be proud of that. You can be proud of where you're from, but you can also know that there are thousands of other people who don't have that same story and when they see your symbol of "heritage," they don't know your story, so they see hate.
If your "heritage" is a symbol of hate for so many people, isn't it time to find a new symbol? Put a biscuit on the pole. Fry up some catfish and paint a portrait of it.
It's time to move on.