Someone added a Page on Confederate flags recently, and as I edited it I was reminded of something which I've been wondering about for some time. Can we go too far in removing reminders of our intolerant past? If we remove all the reminders, will we imagine that the problems of race and inequality borne of racism don't still exist?
For many Americans, racism isn't an ever-present consideration. Some minorities have become concentrated in majority communities or enclaves, while many rural areas have a very small minority population. We in America aren't a homogenous mix of race and culture. The truth is probably that many or even most Americans don't have regular contact with different groups in our adult lives. For those of us who were raised in urban areas and attended integrated public schools, there was some chance to get to know each other, and for those of us who went on to Universities there was more chance.
Still, for those of us outside of urban centers, our exposure to people of other heritage or orientation can be pretty limited. There has been an effort made for a number of years to remove more racist literature from schools and classrooms, and also to remove symbols and reminders of our less tolerant past. Surprisingly, some of the effort to remove those reminders has come from some of the most conservative individuals of all communities.
On the one hand, offensive reminders have been removed, and that seems good. On the other hand, there's the "out of sight, out of mind" problem. Removing all the reminders has given many people the impression that great progress has been made. Yet, when an incident such as the recent church shootings happens we're reminded of how much of the problems still exist.
It seems that some wounds, both physical and social, are so deep and greivous that they must heal slowly from the inside out. If those deep wounds are allowed to heal on the surface first, they can fester and kill the person or society. It's pretty uncomfortable to keep those kind of wounds open, inspected, and free from corruption. Those kinds of wounds can leave ugly scars and painful reminders when they eventually do heal, but we're healthier because of our patience and perserverence in giving them the time and opportunity to heal correctly. So, I end up wondering if we're going to have to rip off the scab of some of our Country's more greivous wounds and let them heal properly. Is it time to preserve some Confederate flags and monuments, maybe not on State Capitals, but in appropriate places? Is it time to bring back Humor like Mark Twains, or Will Rogers'? Yes, Mark Twain used the N-word, and reading his works put that word into the mouths and minds of young people. Is that worse than pretending it never happened? Is it important to have young people question whether he was a racist or not? Is it important for young people to realize that Twains humor was one of the few ways many white Americans could accept criticism of their behavior and begin to understand the humanity of entire races? Yes, some things are a painful reminder, but is it really better to try to forget?