Re: Wonder why you’re called bigots?
Hi Chuck,
I would like to thank you for your thoughts and comments regarding the situation at the Charlotte Tea Party event on October 30th.  I would like to take a few moments and correct some mis-information, and to explain my perspective.
For some background information about me:  I am a native Charlottean, and my family has been here since King George III gave us a land grand in the early 1700s.  Family members on both my grandmother’s and grandfather’s sides of the family fought, and died, for the Confederacy.  I am well aware that the Civil War/War of Northern Aggression/Mr. Lincoln’s War/War Between the States was fought over State’s Rights, and not over slavery.  I know this, you know this, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t know this.
Last Saturday Charlotte hosted a state-wide tea party rally to educate the public about limited government, fiscal conservatism, and personal responsibility.  Two gentlemen (whom I believe were from out of state) showed up in full Confederate “battle rattle”, carrying two flags, one of which was the battle flag.  I am sure it was a coincidence, but there was an African-American on stage giving a speech when they arrived.  Shortly after their arrival, one of our organizers asked them to leave, and they walked off to the side of the building and stood there for a while.  At this point I walked over and said something to the effect of, “why are you guys here dressed like that, that isn’t what we’re trying to portray”.  One of the gentlemen said that they were there because the flag was a flag of rebellion against a tyrannical, overreaching government, and that his forefathers fought with the Confederacy against that tyranny.  I replied that mine fought and died as well, at which point he said, “you should be ashamed of yourself, because you just shamed your ancestors”.  During this conversation, both gentlemen began to furl their flags and put them in their knapsack.
Obviously the men were agitated, and I understand why.  I realize that they feel that I insulted their flag and their heritage.  However, after they furled their flags, I do not believe that myself, nor anyone else in our organization, asked them to leave the premises.  In fact, they were seen walking the crowds later in the day with their flag poles (but no flags).
I have been repeatedly accused of trying to be politically correct.  My decision last Saturday was not at all based on political correctness.  The Good Book says, “there is a time and a season for everything under Heaven.”  I do not believe last Saturday was the time, nor place, for the imagery of Confederates going off to battle.  I understand your organizations perspective, and I am asking you to understand mine.  The tea party movement is constantly being falsely accused of being a racist organization which is only unhappy because an African American is President.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of misunderstanding and ignorance in America, and too many people view the Confederate battle flag as a racist symbol.  I know it’s not.  You know it’s not.  But a lot of people do.  My responsibility as a tea party organizer is not to try to raise awareness and educate people on Southern history and heritage.  It is to educate people on fiscally conservative values, and to ensure that any activity at a tea party cannot be used as ammunition for the Statists.  Had those gentlemen stayed in the crowd with their flags unfurled, the press would have taken pictures of them, and then that would have been the news of the day.  It is not about being PC.  It is about being aware of our actions at tea parties, and understanding that what we do, however good our intentions are, can often be misinterpreted by those more ignorant than we. 
As I mentioned to one gentleman on the phone, had they simply showed up in jeans and a unit t-shirt, and walked through the crowd passing out literature about the SCV and State’s Rights, there would not have been a problem.  Unfortunately, the imagery of Confederates marching off to war is inappropriate at a tea party rally.  Naturally, I can only speak about rallies in Charlotte.  It is probably different in every city and town.  Also, please understand that Charlotte is a very urban environment, and that two Confederates going off to war is viewed differently in Charlotte than, say, Kings Mountain NC, which is just 20 miles away. 
That I caused you offense, I am sorry.  I appreciate your comments and your thoughts, and I hope that one day in America people will have a better understanding of Southern heritage, and that explanations will no longer be necessary.
Matthew Ridenhour
PS: There is a rumor floating around that I am running for office.  That is incorrect.  I ran last year.