This week I have been doing a lot of thinking about rebel flags and Shirley Temple movies. I figured I might as well share my thoughts with you so I can clear my mind and think about something else.
Once again the news media and politicians made a big deal about somebody flying a Confederate flag. You might not have caught it, but when World War II veterans were protesting the closing of their memorial in Washington D.C., one person had a Confederate flag. Oh my! Never mind the fact that during the government “slim-down” (With 83 percent of the government up and running you can hardly call it a shut-down), for some reason it made sense for the government to spend more money closing things than it did to keep them open. I wish somebody would explain that logic to me.
So what we had were veterans in a rather defiant mood taking down the fence the government had put up to keep them out of the World War II memorial, and neatly stacking the pieces of fence in front of the White House for the president and the rest of the world to see.
I think most people do not realize that rebel flags are not symbols of racism. Now before you get all huffy, take a few minutes to hear me out. I can’t deny the fact that the Ku Klux Klan uses the rebel flag. Let me make this real clear for you: I do not defend the Klan in any fashion. I do, however, feel that I do need to share a little Klan history with you.
When the War Between the States ended, Confederate veterans started the Klan in order to protect the women who were widowed as a result of the war. If you take the time to research the subject you will find that this service was needed. A few years later, a very radical group took the Klan over and made it, shall we dare to say it, evil. Since the Klan was started by ex-Confederate soldiers, it only makes sense they would use a Confederate flag. (I am here to defend the flag, not the Klan — just wanted to remind you of that.)
If we use more of the media’s and politicians’ logic, it would follow that if a racist group uses a Confederate flag, the flag must be a racist symbol. Using that same logic, the Klan also uses the Bible and white sheets, but are either of those viewed as a symbol of racism? Maybe we should all take to the streets the next time the local department store has a white sale.
Let me share part of an article Walter E. Williams wrote on January 21, 2000. (I love reading Walter E. Williams’ articles, he is a lot smarter than I will ever be and makes good sense on numerous topics.)
“The flap over the Confederate flag is not quite as simple as the nation’s race experts make it. They want us to believe the flag is a symbol of racism. Yes, racists have used the Confederate flag, but racists have also used the Bible and the U.S. Flag. Should we get rid of the Bible and lower the U.S. flag? Black civil rights activists and their white liberal supporters who’re attacking the Confederate flag have committed a deep, despicable dishonor to our patriotic black ancestors who marched, fought and died to protect their homeland from what they saw as Northern aggression. They don’t deserve the dishonor.”
Not only do the men, black and white, who fought and died for the Confederacy deserve to be remembered, but their cause also needs to be remembered. The war was not about slavery; it sure didn’t help the matter any, but it wasn’t the reason for the war. (There is slavery in the world today and I sure don’t see all that many people all riled up about it, let alone willing to die ending it.)
What you might want to do is ask yourself a very simple question that has a very complicated answer. I have spent years trying to find the truthful answer to it: “What was the real reason for so many people being willing to go to war?” The numbers for the Civil War are almost unreal; 2 percent of the entire population took part in the Battle of Gettysburg alone.
You will have to find your own answers, but to me, the war seemed to be between one group that believed the federal government knew what was best for you, and the other group thinking they could take care of themselves. I myself lean towards that “taking care of myself” theory.
The federal government has the responsibility of providing for the common defense and the general well-being of the people; in other words, it protects the rights and liberty of the people. I also believe that the South had the Constitutional right to leave the Union if it wanted to. You might be thinking I am way off here, but please take some time to research the subject yourself. Don’t take my word on any of this, and don’t take the word of the school system, either. Do your own research.
When you drive by my house you might see a Confederate flag flying in the front yard, depending on my mood. I am not a racist; I fly the Confederate flag to make a statement. I know what is best for me; succeed or fail I do not need the federal government saying what is best for me and how I should be living. I also fly the Confederate flag to remember and pay respect to the men who served a cause they believed in, and were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. (I also fly Union flags from the period. I believe the boys in blue deserve to be remembered and honored. As a matter of fact, I visit the graves of Union soldiers in the area. We have at least three of the first Medal of Honor recipients buried in the Toledo area; I can show you their graves.)
I once had a youth pastor at our church call me a racist because of the rebel flag on my truck. I explained to him why I keep the flag flying. I also explained to him that I really didn’t care what his opinion was, I would not take it down. He had taken a class in college about the war and seemed to think this made him an expert on the subject. I have studied the war for years and I am nowhere near an expert. I will never forget the young pastor telling me I had nothing I could teach him. Sad thing is, I think he was right.
One day I was at a gas station and I noticed an elderly black man under the hood of his car. I am no mechanic, but I walked over to see if there was anything I could do to help him. Turned out he had real help on the way. I stayed there with him for a while and we were having a good time talking when I noticed he saw the flag on my truck. I said, “Yes sir that is a rebel flag. You have no idea how many people misjudge me because of that. They think I am a racist, can you believe that? Then to make matters worse when they find out I am a janitor people seem to think I am stupid. You have no idea what it is like to be judged by people who have no idea who you really are.” The smile on his face was priceless. The look in his eyes broke my heart.
Now how in the world am I going to make the connection with Shirley Temple movies? You might be thinking about the movie “The Littlest Rebel”. You would be close enough with that line of thinking, maybe just a half of bubble off. The point is, many people tend to think Shirley Temple movies are racist. She did do all that tap dancing with that black guy. That black man was none other than Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Many of you might remember the song, “Mr. Bojangles,” written by Jerry Jeff Walker in 1968. (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band probably had the most popular version of the song of its many releases by various artists.)
What many people see as being racist, Shirley Temple tap dancing with Bill Robinson, was instead something to be celebrated. When Robinson appeared with Shirley it was the first time a movie had a major black star and a major white star. The four Shirley Temple movies in which Robinson appeared had a lot to do with changing the movie industry; movies were now being made for both black and white audiences.
I would encourage you to take some time and learn about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the man was incredible. In 1930, he owned the world record for running backwards: 100 yards in 13.5 seconds. Last time I checked, his was still the fifth-fastest time.
It doesn’t really matter to me if you ever approve of rebel flags or become a big Shirley Temple fan. What I hope to accomplish with this article is to encourage people to stop believing what people state as if it were a matter of fact and start doing some research. You should come up with your own thoughts on the subject.
My opinions are based on what information I have been able to find on the subject. This does not mean the subject is closed for debate. I am always interested in hearing what information somebody has on the subject, this is information is then dwelled upon and often makes me do some tweaking of beliefs. True wisdom is knowing just how much you don’t know.
Let me leave you with three quotes from Mark Twain (seems to be a fitting way to end this article, Twain used the “N word,” so he must have been a racist, right? We can’t be reading anything he wrote):
“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”
“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one that can’t read.”
“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.”