She poured me a cup of coffee and said she couldn’t wait for tomorrow, Sunday afternoon. She was going to lie on her couch and watch the NASCAR race on television. I told her I had read that attendance for car racing was down sixty per cent. She fired back: Racing started dying when “they” outlawed the Confederate flag. Racing fans could no longer wave those banners.

I asked her, was car racing a sport or a cultural event, or both? She said, “I never hurt any blacks. I had nothing to do with slavery, and I am sick and tired of the protests and of the government telling me I can’t proudly wave my Confederate flag, and I ain’t apologizing to no one. I didn’t do anything.” She stormed into the restaurant kitchen, her face beet red.

America is a land of regional myths. The Southern one, of gentility and nobleness, leaving out that genteel people placed slaves in smokehouses with meats, partially cooking them to teach them a lesson, and branded their slaves like cattle, and hung them and raped the women and girls – the Southern one most mystifies me.

In fact, the majority of Southerners wanted no part of slavery and certainly no part of war. It was their silence that allowed the horror to take place. But not always. The citizens of Jones County, Mississippi, declared war against the Confederacy and fought to a draw against far superior forces.

Somehow, between 1865 and the Vietnam War, the southern white working class started donning Confederate flags, waving the flags as though the good old boys had won something, with the craze spreading to every redneck in every state. Perhaps NASCAR got squirrely about publicity over its drunken fans. I can’t imagine they were reaching out to a black audience.

What, exactly, was won? The Confederate leadership and generals were, in fact, traitors.

A few days ago, the family of Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice circa 1835 who wrote the Dred Scott decision, united with members of the Scott family. Dred Scott, a slave from Missouri, crossed into Illinois with his master then ran for it, claiming he was in a free state. Taney and his fellow justices ruled that negroes were not persons, thus not citizens of the United States. Ironically, Taney himself a slave owner, freed his slaves and gave them pensions.

Right away, we see that allegiance to strict interpretation of the Constitution directly led to events in this country as horrifying as the Holocaust. The Trumpists, Justice Scalia, intent on conservatism, may justify ANY action, so long as it adheres to the document. Which, by the way, is why so many amendments were passed, to clarify the many flaws of the original document.

Charlie Taney, the great-great grandson of Roger Taney, said to Lynne Jackson, great-great granddaughter of Dred Scott, “I’m sorry.” “You can’t hide from the words,” Taney told reporters. “You can’t run, you can’t hide, you can’t look away.” He apologized to all African American citizens of this nation, for the transgressions of his ancestor. He and Lynne Jackson hugged. Their families had a picnic.

You can just see Nazi lover Steve Bannon and his red meat boys sneering at forgiveness. Can’t you? Can you? Are you sneering?

Silence was never golden. Silence was an accidental terrorist. Silence was a coward. Rise up, brothers. Rise up, sisters. March. Speak. Let you first words be, “I’m sorry.”

Silence is never golden.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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