My Turn, Merry Overholser: Under the guise of patriotism

Published 5:10 pm Monday, November 13, 2017

We lined Main Street to pay homage to our veterans as the parade rolled by. High school bands loudly and proudly played patriotic tunes. Veterans and groups supporting them waved and smiled, as did many of our local and state government officials, to recognize the veterans who have so valiantly served our country.

Sandwiched between N.C. Reps. Carl Ford and Harry Warren was a low-rider pickup truck decked out in several flags — American, Christian, POW/MIA and, much to my shock and dismay, a Confederate flag. This was the only vehicle whose occupants were not proudly showing their faces, but rather hid behind rolled up and blacked-out windows.

I have a few questions. If the occupants of that vehicle were so determined to make a showing at a community event, why were they not brave enough to reveal their faces?

Was participating in the Veterans Day parade a show of patriotism or an out-in-the-open slap in the face to veterans of color, their families and others who consider the Confederate flag a painful reminder of a horrific and hate-filled era in our history, which seems to be making a resurgence?

Why did this vehicle and its’ inhabitants not participate in the same parade at the VA? Were they turned away because their message was divisive? Did they participate on Main Street with the city’s blessing or just manage to sneak between Mr. Ford and Mr. Warren as they feigned obliviousness to the silent message of hate?

Parade organizers, where were you or did you give the OK for the “Veterans of the Civil War” to join in an event that should engender a feeling of unity? Will they be welcomed at Salisbury’s Holiday Caravan parade, while it has taken another group, who openly supports equality for all, eight years to finally be granted permission to participate?

As the parade wrapped up, I glanced across the street to see several families of color, spanning at least three generations, and wondered to myself how they felt. Was this another time when they were expected to keep their heads down and act as if it didn’t matter?

I walked across the street, but I was unable to approach them because I couldn’t find the words. It was way too uncomfortable for this white woman, so I can’t imagine what they felt; but we need to wonder, ask and listen.

Merry Overholser is a resident of Salisbury.