My Turn, Alissa Redmond: North Carolinians should no longer tolerate racist symbols

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 8, 2022

I am writing as several of my neighbors and I continue to engage with Confederate “preservationists” and their corporate sponsors over Rowan County’s event guidelines.  Readers may have viewed Salisbury’s city council member Anthony Smith and I on CNN in October; our town was profiled two years after city officials removed a Confederate monument from our town square.  We are grateful for local – and national – attention, as tremendous work remains in Rowan County to combat racism.

I recently joined others at Faith’s town council meeting to voice our concerns about Confederate “soldiers” marching in their 4th of July parade, firing weapons, and handing out Dixie flag stickers and fans to children in the audience.  We were invited to return to Faith’s town hall on the evening of November 17 for a public forum, which is a rare occurrence in Faith, and I urge other concerned folks to consider attending as well.

We aim to provide Faith’s city officials with tools to amend their parade ordinance without fear of retaliation through lawsuits.  For example, according to an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals June 2020 ruling, “governments are not obliged under the 1st or 14th Amendments to permit the presence of a rebellious army’s battle flag in the pro-Veterans parades they fund and organize.”  No veteran remains alive on this earth who fought in the American Civil War, and – even if they did – they would have no place marching to celebrate the continuity of a republic they attempted to destroy.

Heather McGhee, in her excellent book “The Sum of Us,” makes the economic argument that American racism is not zero-sum, having stolen money (among so many other things) from all Americans’ wallets, and we will all advance when we transcend divisive politics in favor of a solidarity dividend.  When corporations and political parties move beyond statements condemning racism — with no policies in place to back up their words — then our communities will prosper across the board.

As a small business owner in Rowan County whose store has been “boycotted” by white supremacists on more than one occasion, I can personally attest to the economic advantages that arise from using every platform available to advocate for antiracism.  There is no economic reason to hold your tongue on racism in today’s business climate — I’m looking at you, Food Lion, which has remained silent on this issue — as the vast majority of people want to see our nation move beyond hateful symbols, statements, and deeds buried in our past.

We are a country of contradictions — founded by white patriots promoting (male) equality while holding slaves.  My heart has been blessed, and my impatience dismissed, as political polarization creates barriers for us to unite — but I am certain we will move forward together.  There is more to our collective story than the ugliness of America’s racist past, which should never be forgotten, but is surmountable with the strength of our dreams for a prosperous future for all of us.

Again, if you have an opinion regarding Confederate memorabilia in Independence Day celebrations, I encourage you to make a pilgrimage to Faith’s Town Hall on Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m. to make your voice heard; bonus points if you are a resident of Faith — your voice will carry the most weight (so I’ve been told).  We need your physical presence and unique perspective to make a clear statement to this local government that North Carolinians no longer tolerate racist symbols dominating our town squares and community gatherings.

Alissa Redmond owns the South Main Book Company in Salisbury. When she is not reading, she is either cooking terrible food for her two young daughters or dreaming up a better world for them to inherit.