Schools should respect Southern spirit

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Wayne D. Carlson

As a long-time participant in the on-going struggle to defend the good name and historic memory of the Southern people, I understand that many school systems have a policy in place that forbids their students from wearing clothing that incorporates the Confederate battle flag.

Inasmuch as millions of American residents are Southern-born, with ancestors who did their duty when called upon by Virginia to defend their soil against invading armies, I find it the highest form of insult to openly censure and consign to infamy any symbols under which that defense was made.

I have heard all of the excuses made in support of this execrable policy, and none is credible or justifiable. I believe the framers and enforcers of this policy owe it to the parents of those children under their charge and upon whom this policy will be executed to state explicitly what it implies.

Do our public servants and local school representatives stand in support of, and in agreement with, what became the opening salvo that began the crusade to vilify and destroy the historic memory of millions of Southern people? Their actions tell us that, yes, they do.

The banishment of Confederate symbolism within our schools began in earnest 14 years ago when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, at their 1991 national convention, had the audacity to issue a proclamation in which they presumed to dictate to the rest of us how we, as a people, with our own unique history and heritage, are to be remembered and characterized.

Calling the Confederate flag "an odious blight upon the universe," they systematically began an attack upon all things distinctly Southern, and most especially Confederate.

That these attacks grow more outrageous and ridiculous is evidenced by the recent characterization of even the word "Dixie" as offensive and racist. As leaders given oversight for the education of our young, impressionable children, this policy tells our children, in no uncertain terms, that we agree with the NAACP and their truly odious and vindictive proclamation.

Tolerance, diversity and multiculturalism are heavily touted and actively promoted within our government-run schools, for good or ill. I would ask where the tolerance for the Southern view of Mr. Lincoln’s war is evidenced. Why is respect shown to every other culture and people except the South’s?

Our schools are supposed to be for the education, not indoctrination, of our young. If some of our students have been "led" to believe that the Southern people have a particularly odious and ignoble past, I would expect the schools to do their utmost to disabuse and enlighten such narrow and bigoted views. As a long-time public school teacher myself, I can assure you they do not.

The surrender by school boards on this issue calls into question the presumed wisdom and virtue of the controversial 1954 Brown decision. Are Southerners, who have already been forced to surrender their armies and the independence of their states and country, not to mention many of their most precious liberties, now called upon to surrender the very honor of their ancestors and their people’s historic memory on the altar of appeasing ill-informed, vindictive special-interest groups that want to force our children into believing they are the product of an ignoble people with an ignoble past?

Stripped of all the arguments that try to justify this deliberate cultural prejudice, by allusions to sensitivity or catering to one small group’s feelings at the expense of everyone else’s, it is nothing more than tyranny. Children are not stupid, and they will absorb the message being sent loud and clear.

The question remains: Can America’s Southern population receive equal justice and treatment within our schools? To date, the answer is a resounding no.

Anyone who dares to insult Virginians by claiming that Virginia reclaimed her sovereignty in April of 1861 only in defense of oppressing a portion of her population has no claim on truth or historical accuracy. I ask Virginia’s, if not all of America’s, school boards to reconsider and then unanimously rescind their discriminatory policy and demonstrate the respect they claim to have for everyone’s heritage.

If tolerance for everyone’s heritage is an expectation for our students, let it begin and be modeled first by our school board. There is no place for the type of cultural and ethnic cleansing this ban imposes on our innocent children.

As parents, as Virginians, and as Southerners we should not ask, but demand, an end to all forms of anti-Southern bias and expect the same respect for our beloved symbols that others expect from us.