Friday, July 10, 2015

My Southern Heritage

I guess I have been blissfully ignorant for most of my adult life, because it never occurred to me that the Confederate flag was being flown in any official capacity until the shootings in Charleston . Then, I began to follow the story in South Carolina.  I witnessed lawmaker's changing their minds.  I witnessed elected officials admitting they were wrong.  That is newsworthy in and of itself.  Quite frankly, I had come to believe that our politicians voted along party lines without regard to anything or anyone else...unless that "anyone else" happened to be a big donor.

But, I digress.

Back to the flag.  I've read an awful lot about how removing the flag vilifies southern heritage and is disrespectful to the descendants of those who fought for the south during the Civil War.  I'm struck by how differently I feel about my own southern heritage.

I am a southerner.
I am a native North Carolinian.
My father is from the mountains of North Carolina.
My mother is from Alabama.
I refer to others as "y'all."
I eat grits.
I know all the words to the Alabama Crimson Tide's fight song.
I am southern.

When I think about my southern heritage - at least the part that I want to show off loud and proud - I think about the cool slate front porch where I spent many Saturday evenings with my great aunts, Lola Bell and Maxie.

I think of sweet tea
corn bread
biscuits and gravy
better  yet, biscuits and maple syrup

I think of yes m'am and no sir
please and thank you
no white shoes before Memorial Day (and those of you who wear them after Easter are truly the ones who vilify Southern culture!)

I think of "y'all come back" and "can you stay for dinner?"

I think of church on Sunday
prayer meetings on Wednesday
ice-cream suppers in the late afternoons

I think of strong women and gentle men

I think of casseroles after births
casseroles after deaths
casseroles after illness

I think of food a lot!

I guess when I think of the southern heritage that I want to display, it has more to do with graciousness and welcome.  It has to do with hospitality and making others feel welcome.  It has to do with minding your manners, and never being intentionally or proudly offensive to others.  Never.  It has to do with hosting others and not proclaiming our independence from others.  It has to do with setting a table that always has room for one more.  Mainly, it has to do with kindness....

So, I don't understand the veneration of the Confederate Flag.  It represents a part of my history that was very unkind.  While I do not want to forget that - and I don't want to forget what human beings are capable of doing to each other - that's not the part of my heritage that I want to celebrate or display.  The integrity with which I live my life is the most profound honor I can give to my ancestors.

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