My thoughts on the Confederate Flag recorded in Overcoming Adolescence, copyright 2011

One of those life-altering occasions occurred to me in college. I was a member of the Student Senate at Clemson University, and usually we debated such banal questions as whether or not the male Senators should wear a coat and tie to the meetings. Occasionally, to the chagrin of the Deans, we actually dealt with something of substance. In the late 1960’s overt racism was a larger fact of life on our conservative campus than drugs. In the Deep South, the Civil War, over 100 years in our past, still stirred far more emotion than World War II. The Second World War was history. The Civil War seemed like a current event. The Confederate Battle Flag was prominently and vigorously waved at our football and basketball games.

Someone put forth a motion in our Student Senate that flaunting the Confederate flag should not be allowed in our sports arenas. Ours was a newly integrated campus. I was against the motion. I was proud of my Dixie Heritage. I did not think of myself as a racist. I loved the Deep South. I loved our songs, our heroes, our food (grits, fatback, collards, barbeque, turnips, okra and cornbread), and the Rebel Yell (mine was louder than anybody’s). My accent, then and now, is deep-fried and smothered in red-eye gravy. I was and am about as Southern as a human can be!

But I was in college, getting a “liberal arts” education, and for the first time in my life, I was aware of a larger world. I had never been in school with a person of African heritage until I got to college. In my culture, we still used the “N” word casually.

A pretty Jewish coed sat beside me during the debate on the motion to ban the waving of the Confederate flag in the football stadium. She whispered to me, “Waving the Confederate flag in the face of a black person seems to me to be no different than waving a Nazi flag in my face.”

I had never thought about that! She was right. Period. I learned something that day. I voted for the resolution. I am pleased to say that Confederate flags are no longer waved at Clemson University on game day in the stadium.

Something shifted in me that day. I changed an old way of thinking. I grew up a bit.

Categories: Basketball, Faith/Spirituality, Football, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “My thoughts on the Confederate Flag recorded in Overcoming Adolescence, copyright 2011

  1. Jim Catoe

    Thanks Marion. There is a fresh breeze blowing now.

  2. Courtney Krueger

    College can be very formative…
    Here is the text of a message I sent to my friend Dwight Sterling in 2010 after I told this story in a sermon:
    You may not remember this incident, but you were HUGE in helping me with something in college. You once came to my room and almost immediately saw that there was a Rebel flag in there. You were very polite and asked who owned what in the room (you didn’t directly ask about the flag). I realized what the question behind the question was, but didn’t want to tell you the flag was mine. That was when I recognized that it didn’t matter what I thought the flag stood for, it stood for something else – something much more sinister – to you. That night I realized that I had to choose between a piece of cloth or a friend – I took the flag down, threw it away because I knew that you were more important to me than the flag. I have used that principle so many times in my life since – I’ve learned to be aware of times I have to choose between some THING and some ONE. You taught me that lesson and I am very thankful to you for that.

  3. Anonymous

    I wonder how the apostle Paul would address this? It may not be wrong to or for some but to many it is wrong and may led some astray. As some one from the North making his home in the South, it has always brought with it the threat of violence against me and the stigma of racism. Symbols are important in stating and shaping who we are and what we think.

  4. Sam Boone

    Marion … thanks … I too was opened to a broader world when attending the Spartanburg Jr College … my roommate was Black member of our Basketball team … from Chester, SC … I was the manager for the Basketball team and it just seemed natural … I was heart sick when word spread across campus that Dr King had been shot … the frat boys held parties and waved the Confederate Flag late into the night … Billy and I sat in our rooms listening intently to the radio. I have long felt the flag belonged in a Museum … but I do bristle when those outside of SC comment on what our State should or should not do … it is a State issue … I fully support and trust our Governor and Legislature will do the right thing. Why must good a decent folk have to die to goad us (and that includes me) into doing the right thing.

  5. I’m a little older than you. I’ve lived all my life in S.C. except for 61/2 years in the Navy and 2 in N.C. There was never any doubt in my mind that the Rebel flag stood for segregation. I am proud to be a Southerner but have never found the need to display the flag. It’s a part of our history that belongs in a museum.

  6. Anonymous

    thank you for sharing this Marion, wow !! never thought of it like that — The Flag issue has definitely made me think about a lot of things i have just simply not considered before. for me personally, it is part of southern history. but something that causes so much pain and fear should be placed in the history books. it is certainly way past time to move forward

  7. Marion, I always love stories about my alma mater, and this one makes me proud of Clemson and its student body. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Ernst Wijsmuller

    Thank you for posting.

  9. We have been pretty smug up here in Canada about our racist tendencies…thinking we are better than thou…but a report hit the press last week after seven years of study on the residue of the residential schools debacle here in Canada over the last century and the resultant destruction of our first peoples. We are ashamed and humiliated and participate with you in contrition and humility for what we have done and said in the attempt to humanize savages and Christianize the heathen. Standing with you.

  10. Karen Kahn Weinberg

    Mr. Aldridge, This excerpt was shared with me by my tennis pal, Gerald Aldridge (I believe your uncle?). I am Jewish, from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where my family had an annual in-home Christmas tree and Easter egg hunts at my grandparents’. The folks and grand folks didn’t want us to miss out on the fun – plus those were important times of the year in the retail jewelry business, which sustained us during the good times and the not-so-good times. I am a certified “Daughter of the Confederacy” whose German-born great-great grandfather, Benjamin Scharff, was one of the few Jewish officers for the confederacy. He served in the Mississippi cavalry. I married a Yankee from Brooklyn whose passion is civil war history. Dan and I lived and worked in the early years of our marriage in Greenville/Anderson, SC, and enjoyed many a fine performance at Clemson University. And yes, the spirited painted Tiger Paws were on the highway when we lived there. We sang “Dixie” at our wedding reception, and with many Yankees watching with open jaws, those of us from the South sang out with pride. And, while I still (and probably always will), feel a sense of connection to the part of the country in which I was raised when I hear that song, the dialogue now open is an important one.

    I am grateful that none of my ancestors had slaves and that our family has long been positively associated with the black university, UAPB, and for the strong relationship my parents and grandparents had with the African American community in Pine Bluff and throughout the state. I am proud that my grandfather, with his strong Hungarian accent, was the first retail merchant in town that allowed the African American community to buy “on credit”. Though it is a sad fact that that came later than credit buying for the non-black public. When Martin Luther King, Jr, was murdered in 1968, my parents were requested to provide use of our home for a coming-together of the town leaders (white, of course) and the black community, in hopes of averting a race riot, many of which occurred throughout the country. That our home was considered a neutral place for both sides and that people met there, talked through their challenges, and successfully prevented the riots.

    Thank you for sharing – what a gifted writer and broad thinker you are! And to Gerald, too, for letting me enjoy this little big piece of “Overcoming Adolescence”. Karen Kahn Weinberg, Roswell, GA

  11. Pingback: Reflections On Charleston One Week Later | The Workbench of Faith

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