Stars and Bars

by Donald R. Barbera

Presidential hopefuls recently had a chance to hit one out of the park in the South Carolina primaries by taking a strong stand against racism and hatred in the much publicized issue regarding the state’s Stars and Bars flag—they struck out.

That is sad. Even sadder is the fact that we knew they would. When it comes to reality, we knew political expediency would override moral fiber. Although, Vice-president, Al Gore, did come out with a statement deploring racism and hatred, he made no direct mention of the flag issue, as did the rest of the candidates. Even Alan Keyes, a black man if you didn’t know, had nothing of substance to say about the controversial flag.

Once again politicians demonstrated that when it comes to making a tough and controversial decision, they have no honor, no strength and certainly no courage when it comes to doing the right thing for an issue that is clear as the manacles, stripes and lynchings that still taint the history of that “peculiar institution” known as slavery. The Confederate flag, the Stars and Bars, is an insult to every person of color living in the United States. It is a defiant divider and a clear symbol of hatred to people of color.

Here was a chance for America’s “leaders” to stand and say “hatred won’t be tolerated,” but when the opportunity presented itself—they ran for the general cover of political platitudes instead of making a stand. What a moment it could have been. A moment in time. A history making event, but no one had a taste for history. No one wanted to rock the boat. Instead, the ship of state sailed on leaving the port of slave ships untouched.

The Stars and Bars is a reminder of the hatred, racism and brutality associated with slavery. It is a divider of people and an agitator of hatred. It adds insult to injury by provoking division under the false pretenses of tribute to the southern tradition. The South, for all intents and purposes, were traitors to the United States. Losers do not write history. It is perverse reminder of a rift that set kin against kin and killed many of this country’s young.

For people of color, it is the same the skull and crossbones of a ship carrying slaves. It is a symbol that is rubbing salt into still open wounds, honoring a peculiar institution instigated in infamy and inhumane existence. For people of color, it is a constant eyesore. It is the Swastika of the South. It is a horrific reminder that Nazi institutions thrived in this country but under another name—slavery.

Politicians missed a chance to heal old wounds and bring the country into the 21st century, but I cannot put all of the blame on the politicians. This entire country must shoulder some of that burden. America can’t say it didn’t know the Stars and Bars was an insult to people of color and its silence indicates—it doesn’t care.

Stars and Bars by Donald R. Barbera

© Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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