Jonathan Byrd is a folk singer and ace songwriter, a Southerner. He’s played the Sisters Folk Festival, which I’m involved with, several times and will be back this year. In the wake of the Charleston Church Massacre, he ran an op-ed on Huffington Post. Read the whole thing; it’s worth it.
If the massacre in Charleston — or any number of similar events in recent U.S. history — had been committed by a foreign invader, we would go to war. How many billions will we spend fighting the terrorist organization known as institutionalized racism? How many American lives are we willing to risk to protect America?
I hear you out there saying, “But it’s not an institution. There are no leaders. There’s no one to attack.”
Yes there is. You want to flush them out? Here’s how to do it: Take down the confederate flag. Take it down on national television. Take it down for an hour. A day, if you can stand it. A week would be nice. I don’t want to talk about whether it’s right or wrong. It’s the least we could do, a gesture that would mean more than words.
Then watch the organization reveal itself. The leaders would be obvious immediately. They would in fact be invited to speak on the nightly news. You might be surprised to find out that they already sit behind the news desk. They are in some of our nation’s highest offices. They are on the school board. They will not have enough humility to sit on their hands, not even for ten minutes. Their supporters may even show up in the comments on this status, threatened enough by the mere idea of a humble gesture to their sworn enemy. I hope they do…
I understand the “heritage, not hate” side of the argument over the Confederate battle flag — I really do. Hell, when I was young, I wore a Confederate flag belt buckle to celebrate my love for Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Allman Bros. and Hank Williams, Jr. It wasn’t a racial thing, but I bet more than one person took it that way. Individual choices are one thing, but for a state to fly that flag is to keep open a raw wound that this nation can’t seem to heal. As Byrd notes:
It doesn’t threaten your heritage. You take off your hat for a lady. You clean the shit off your boots before you walk into a church. It’s just a matter of respect. Admit that your perspective might feel right and be wrong.
It takes some balls for a guy of his background and culture to stick his oar in on this touchy subject. As in his songs, he’s honest and real. I tip my hat to the man.