Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sensitive Topics and Self-Delusion

I have a feeling that most of the people reading this are in favor of South Carolina’s decision to take down the Confederate Battle Flag from the State House.  Many of you probably have strong feelings in this direction.  That is why I waited a few days for things to calm down before posting this.

The Confederate Battle Flag was not used between the Civil War and the 1960s and it was not brought back to life as a symbol of tradition and heritage.  It was used primarily by the KKK to intimidate the African-American community. It is true that recently it has become a symbol of culture and heritage to some people in the South (Dukes of Hazard is fiction, but a good illustration). But it is still a symbol of hate and intimidation to most.  Even in a utilitarian evaluation that compares the positives of the cultural symbol with the negatives of the racist semiotics, taking it down would clearly win.

When I saw the NAACP interview appreciating the decision, it got me thinking. Shouldn’t they be removed the term “colored” from their name?  Isn’t this similarly a former symbol of discrimination and bias that is used by a specific group for an acceptable reason now (like the flag is now used as a cultural symbol by some) but used mostly in a negative way?  

You might say, but this is different.  You can come up with some good reasons too. The SC State House is a government building while NAACP is private.  But so is NASCAR and most people agreed with their decision to ask patrons not to bring Confederate flags. You probably also think the Washington DC football team should change its name and they are private.

You might say that the flag was used in much more severe situations than NAACP uses their name.  But what about the KKK burning crosses on lawns?  Should we ban the cross?

I wish I could answer this question because I think it is really important.  But my self-delusion is screaming at me with all kinds of reasons why the NAACP name and the Confederate Battle Flag are fundamentally different.  One is OK but the other is not. But none of the reasons are that convincing if I look at them carefully and that disturbs me. 

Am I a hypocrite looking for an easier and more politically correct position?