“Quiet racism and the Confederate flag”

Maybe you’ve heard this saying from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

“Those who know — don’t speak.  Those who speak — don’t know.”

The saying originally admonished people to be humble. If you know a lot about a subject, you don’t have to show off by blabbing on & on.  Those who DO go on & on will prove themselves eventually NOT to know.

But this saying lauding humility about one’s wisdom has been hijacked into a much different and wicked usage.

Today, the way we hear the saying is like this:  “Those who know — don’t ask. Those who ask — don’t know.”

It means — there is something secretive going on — like a Ku Klux Klan organizing drive.  Anybody who asks about it isn’t privy to what’s going on.  Those who DO know about it — don’t raise questions.

“Those who know, don’t ask; those who ask, don’t know.”

In 2015, it seems to me that racism isn’t something that arises from membership drives by the KKK or by politicians declaring, “Segregation forever!”

Rather, the process is much more private.  It’s what a member of the South Carolina legislature called “quiet racism.”

Racism is passed on from parents to children in conversation at the dinner table; it is passed on from one kid to another in telling a joke; it is passed on from one neighbor to another by a car owner making an off-handed remark to the garage mechanic.

By the time the Confederate flag was hoisted over the Capitol Dome of South Carolina in 1961 in direct defiance of the civil-rights movement, nobody needed to state the real reason out loud.  The GIVEN reason was the same old veil of “states’ rights.”  The real reason was racism — and everybody know it.  But nobody needed to say it out loud.  Because racism is spread in private, quiet moments — between two neighbor ladies talking, between kids on a baseball team playing an opponent who has a black kid, between men in a bar talking about why their high school team can’t win a game.  “It’s the blacks.  You can’t win with them — you can’t win without them.”

This is “quiet racism.”  And it is the history behind the upholding of the Confederate flag in our time.  People have learned new ways to cover for it — pride in forefathers who fought in the war, the need to preserve rather than erase history, etc.

But behind it all was racism — and everybody knew it.  That does NOT mean that today anybody who flies the flag on one’s pick-up truck or has a decal on one’s batting helmet is a racist.  It isn’t a proven correlation.  But knowing the history behind the Stars & Bars — in our modern time as well as during the Civil War — to continue displaying it signals either breath-taking ignorance about its history; or a spit-in-your-face attitude towards America’s long journey trying to live up to its ideals.  It’s easy for some to pass off the struggle as being nothing more than a pet project of liberals or the news media or Northerners.

Which by themselves — deep ignorance and resentment against change — have long been ingredients of racism.


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