... A difference, i think, between the sight of that swastika and the confederate style is that the swastika, from here, sits fully in its historical significance. People know exactly what it means and who it represented. Especially the Europeans, the Jewish homies, the Gypsies, the Poles. If they see it on a street corner today, they can rest assured that the cats waving it are on that racist bullshit. But a new form emerges with the so called battle flag. Those who wave it reject any racist connotation, in public at least. And this is annoying because all brown people in the south know that the bumper sticker means "unfriendly to negroes." They know it. And the cats with the stickers know that they know it.
Yet cats are brought up in places that are imbued with world meanings long before they even get the gift of language. So a white kid that has no investment in racism, no resentment for non-white people, nevertheless comes up in the world of the dukes of hazzard, shotguns and hee haw. But this is the thing: I did too. Exactly the same place, just one neighborhood over. So these signs are part of my landscape and i move from baby to kid to teen just taking it all in. But then I get to high school where I finally learn a bit about the civil war. And I am like, whaaat? Those guys did what? And the totality of the war means nothing, i am rapt with just one detail. The fate of the brown people. Suddenly I look around and realize that I am attending Robert E. Lee High School. My homeboy goes to Nathan Forrest High. My other homie goes to Andrew Jackson. And then I feel the resentment, because my whole world is littered with icons of cats who hated me. Or didn't think enough of me to hate me. Not that the whole history of America is any different, but it is the veneration that I can't stand. They love these people as heroes. And I am like, heroes? You want the heroes here with you if possible. I don't want Nathan Forrest here with me. I don't want that name on my diploma.
So my world shifts. This knowledge sours the icons of my environment. And a neighborhood over, none of this means anything to my white counterpart. He learns about southern hospitality and the might of the confederacy. And these cats are his heroes. Then he gets all mad when I push the reminder. But I am all mad at his mode of existence. Which is pretty much the history of race relations in america anyway. Both of us are selective about the legacy. He picks out a lush forrest. But I don't see the beauty because there are hunters among the trees whose muskets are trained on me. And they are all I can see. Why can't he see them? Why can't he ... oh no, he just put the decal on his bumper.
Thus, I grow up suspicious of all grand claims to honor, goodness and fairness in the men of history. a neighborhood over, he grows up suspicious of me. The feeling is mutual. Across town, there are black kids playing in front of a statue of robert e lee. Little versions of me who will soon awaken to the hot mess that is the american racial landscape. The landscape is a bit like the statue itself: it may tarnish but it ain't moving. Lucky for us, we can check it from many different angles. Stand with me and look at it from here. I'll do the same for you.
Note: Thanks to the gangster Lea for pulling these thoughts out me.