School accused of practicing ‘cultural genocide’ of Southern heritage

John North
Thu, February 24, 2011

EAST FLAT ROCK —A two-hour vigil, to protest what participants termed yet another sign of “cultural genocide,” based on a decision last spring when a student at Flat Rock Middle School was warned that she could not continue wearing a T-shirt with Confederate flag on it to school, was staged by three persons early Tuesday morning across the street from the school.

Led by H.K. Edgerton, an Asheville-based activist who promotes the recognition of Southern blacks who fought on the side of the South in the Civil War, the trio stood with a pair of Confederate battle flags at the corner of West Blue Ridge Road and Smythe Street.

Edgerton, clad in a uniform of the war-era, added, “I’d very much like to go in and talk to the school.” He noted that Confederate memorabilia should be allowed at school, that students should be told about the heroics of blacks soldiers fighting for the South during February, which is Black History Month, and the Civil War should be taught accurately, since this year is the war’s sesquicentennial.

The other two participants were Hendersonville resident Mike Wilson, whose daughter, Michaela, 13, received the principal’s warning not to wear her Confederate T-shirt to school again; and Melissa Caps of Zirconia. Wilson works in Hendersonville, while Caps describes herself as “a homemaker.” She also is a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Edgerton, who is black, proudly hugged Wilson and Caps, noting, “This is my family here.” Wilson and Caps smiled and nodded.

In summarizing the vigil’s purpose, Edgerton asserted, “The war is not over. In America, we still have a cold war. The Civil War is not over. We’re facing social, cultural genocide in the Southland of America,” as evidenced by FRMS Principal Scott Rhodes’ warning. “The flag signifies the Southern soul,” but the freedom to fly it and for Southerners to honor their ancestors is threatened with “cultural genocide.”

He said the situation comes down to the case of Tinker vs. the Iowa School Board — with the ruling that “you can’t just arbitrarily ban flags.” After a pause, he added, “The bottom line is that, in Dixieland,” Southerners should not let anybody stop them from flying or displaying the Confederate flag.

Regarding the issue, Rhodes told The Tribune in a telephone interview later Tuesday, “As principal of Flat Rock Middle School, I respect the rights of our students — and that their rights don’t end when the come in the schoolhouse door.”

He added, “It is my responsibility to protect the integrity of our educational environment” from anything that is disruptive. Rhodes declined to comment further.

The vigil participants chatted about their cause with neighboring homeowner Judy Hodges, the occupants of a car that stopped briefly to express support, and a newspaper reporter. Others drove by, expressing support by waving. A Henderson County Sheriff’s deputy cruised by slowly and waved, as Edgerton and his associated smiled and waved back.

Hodges told the trio, “What I agree on is that these people have a right to be heard … This is America … I want to understand what they’re saying and to hear both sides.”

Edgerton, who had been in South Carolina on business but arose early to drive several hours to the vigil, emphasized, “I don’t want to be here.” He said he would much rather be playing golf. However, he asserted that he could not enjoy such leisure with the thought that FRMS is brainwashing “these babies (students) that their ancestors were behind this evil, demonic symbol” of the Confederate flag. “Somebody has to stand up against injustice.”

He added, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the Christian white man of the South is probably the most discriminated-against” demographic in contemporary America. To that end, he said, “I’ve never in my life seen so much hate and bigotry talked about by preachers.”

The vigil, Edgerton said, “is not about beating up on” the FRMS principal. Instead, “it’s about injustices being perpetrated on Southern Americans.”

Noting that it is important to exercise rights to protect freedom, Edgerton said, “You can’t terrorize me with my flag.” However, he also acknowledged that “there are people who pick up this flag and do bad things. “

He added, “Can’t we teach these babies (FRMS students) about black Confederate soldiers and blacks who fought for the North? No.”

While Southern blacks who fought for the yankees are honored by the powers-that-be today, few are taught that “most Southern black boys were forced at the end of a bayonet to fight for the North … When they returned home (in the South), wearing yankee uniforms, how many people — black or white — would welcome them?”

In gesturing toward FRMS, Edgerton said, “At the schoolhouse, they teach that Abraham Lincoln was a hero.” To the contrary, he claimed, Lincoln should be brought back from the dead and tried for suspending habeas corpus and other “crimes.” After a pause, he stressed, “Lincoln was no (American) hero.”

As for Northerners, Edgerton asserted, “You can’t hate all folks who come from the North … But the things they’ve done — they run our schools, our jurisprudence center and the media.” With a smile, he quipped, “You can’t talk to yankees. All you can do is whip them.” More seriously, he said, “I’m not trying to down all yankees. We’ve got some good copperheads around here.”

Caps said, “When Jesus Christ was here, didn’t he offend people?” She also asserted that she and Wilson went separately, on the same day last spring, to visit the FRMS principal, but “he put cement in his ears … We said, ‘Are you going to take away the Mexican flag’ (being displayed at FRMS), if you’re going to take away this (Confederate) flag?” She said Rhodes said he would only ban the Confederate flag because some people find it controversial and “he didn’t want to offend anybody.”

To that end, Caps recounted, “I said, ‘I saw an Obama bumper sticker on a car outside (in the school parking lot) — and it offends me.’ He (Rhodes) said he wasn’t going to do anything” about the bumper sticker.

Caps said that “all of my ancestors” — none of whom had slaves — “fought for the South.” She noted that one ancestor left his pregnant wife to fight in the war, during which he was killed. He is buried in a mass grave in Petersburg, Va., “without even the dignity of a grave marker.”

Wilson, who said he is not racist, noted that he definitely has some Indian blood and a high probability of some black blood. Regarding his daughter, he said, “They told her not to come back with that shirt … Nobody said anything to her except school authorities. She was pissed off.”

In explaining his stance, Wilson said, “First of all, I’m an American. I was born in Henderson County. I love my country. I know some of my ancestors died for that (Confederate) flag … For them (at FRMS) to say we’re black-hating bigots is bull.”

From his perspective, Wilson said the Civil War was not about hatred of blacks or slavery, but defending the homeland against invaders. “They’re teaching them (at FRMS) that everything about the South” was evil. “That’s the impression they’re presenting.”

Even today, “if people come into my county, I’m going to defend what’s mine. That’s what my ancestors were fighting for,” too, he said. “Slavery’s got nothing to do with why I’m here. The reason I’m here is they’re committing cultural genocide. There’s kids wearing Jamaican flags” to FRMS, with no criticisms from the authorities.

Caps then interjected, “Most people call it the Civil War. But we were fighting for our country. I’d call it the War for Southern Independence, or the War of Northern Aggression, or or the War between the States.”

Agreeing, Wilson said, “This is my country. I still call it Dixie. I try not to go above I-40 — that’s the new Mason-Dixon line.”

Ultimately, Wilson noted, “It’s about the First Amendment,” in permitting his daughter to wear clothing with a Confederate flag on it. Otherwise, he said FRMS and other schools should require students to wear a uniform.

“They categorize me as a ‘redneck.’ I’m a Southern Confederate Christian American.” Wilson said he stands for “God, country and family.” Further, Wilson said, “I have no hatred toward any man. But I don’t appreciate the insinuations of that toward my ancestors.”

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