My Turn, Mary Walker: Removing Confederate flag is coming to terms with nation’s history

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 1, 2023

By Mary Walker

On Dec.13, I attended the monthly meeting in Faith Town Hall to speak in public comment about the use of the Confederate flag in the Faith Fourth parade. I first expressed my appreciation to Mayor Barger to be given the opportunity to speak and that my words were spoken in good will and for a better understanding of the effects of the use of the flag in our community.

At a previous meeting in October, Mayor Barger listened to people during public comment who stated a desire to attend the Faith Fourth parade with their families but because of the Confederate flags on display every year they said they would feel uncomfortable and intimidated. Their hesitation, and that of countless others, is founded on a history of the flying and glorification of Confederate flags as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. The flag instills feelings of trauma in those descended from enslaved people. Despite attempts by some to dismiss these feelings of trauma by describing loyalty to the flag as “heritage” the flag is a symptom of the diseases of hatred and discrimination. At no time at both these meetings did any of the speakers suggest that the residents of Faith were racists, but that the Confederate symbols on display at the parade were widely recognized as such.

According to an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals June 2020 ruling regarding a parade in Alpharetta, Georgia, “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.” When it was suggested to the mayor that these symbols be removed from the Parade the mayor replied “There is nothing we can do. All we are asked to do is grant a permit to the organizers and charge a fee of $100.”

Resistance to change is typical of many small towns but that does not need to be the case here. This is an opportunity to move toward tolerance, unity and understanding. The mayor and the aldermen can change a few words in their town ordinance to allow only the American flag and the North Carolina flag in the parade. This would show leadership from elected officials towards unity and a true celebration of Independence Day. This is a huge public holiday and is incredibly significant as it marks the day the United States officially became its own nation. If Confederate flags are no longer permitted during the parade, this will be the first small step in a long overdue process of healing.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 we have listened to advice from scientists and healthcare professionals telling us not to ignore the symptoms of the coronavirus and to follow the guidelines in order to protect ourselves, our family and our community from the threat of illness. Ignoring the racism and white supremacy woven into the fabric of each confederate flag is a threat, and is a guarantee that our community will continue to suffer from the diseases of hatred and discrimination. Removing the Confederate flags in the Faith Fourth parade is not erasing history, but coming to terms with our country’s history by removing a symbol that portrays support of slavery and oppression rather than the glorious birth of our nation.

Mary Walker lives in Salisbury.