Now what': Festival's title recalls hurtful past
April 22, 2010
For those of you who haven't heard, there's a community event on post Saturday that's supposed to be tons of fun.
There'll be arts and crafts, inflatables, live music and lots of yummy food like barbecue and funnel cakes. (I want to try the deep-fried candy bars.) You'll also find clogging girls, a frozen T-shirt contest and much more. And to top it all off, the admission is free!
Sounds like people of all ages and backgrounds should be able to find something they'll enjoy - but that's only if you make it past the event's title.
"Salute to the South" is what the event is called, appropriately for some but inappropriately for others.
If you're wondering what is inappropriate about that label, I'd be willing to bet that you're not African-American.
Let me explain:
As a black woman who grew up in a small town in Alabama, there were times when I was overlooked for positions or called insulting names because of my race. Couple those events with my grandmother's stories of picking cotton for pennies a day and my mother's recollection of school integration and what you get is a person who is less nostalgic about the "good ole' South." In fact, when I hear the word "South" (or a variation of it), it first brings to mind images of Confederate flags and plantations.
I don't think those images need further explanation, but I'll throw in the descriptors "inequality" and "prejudice" just for kicks. At the same time, however, upon hearing the word "South," there's also a part of me that has visions of fried chicken and watermelon. Those
images, I believe, do not lend themselves to any one race and truly are Southern traditions.
But the mere fact I was divided on this issue inspired me to write this column.
All of us, I believe, view life through a filter of experiences. Because of that, we have separate perceptions of reality, and it is not often we stop to consider one other than our own. This became more evident to me when I found other black people had the same initial reaction as I did and that some white people were completely unaware of the title's connotation.
And so, here I am.
I am convinced that the people at the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation weren't plotting to alienate the many, many minorities in the Fort Benning community and beyond. I am convinced as an American, each of us holds the civil right to celebrate our own heritage. And I am convinced that our military communities, where people of all races defend our nation side-by-side, have made some progress since the dark days of "separate but equal."
But I am also convinced that we are forever influenced by history.
It is not the intent of the title that is bothersome but the history that it recalls for those who view America through the blood stains of their ancestors.
Pretending it never happened is not the answer, but I don't think taking out your ill feelings on a community festival is either.
For many African-Americans, the wounds from what happened years ago in the South may not be fresh, but the scars will likely remain for years to come. In the meantime, we can choose not to avoid our pasts and other cultures because that creates more division. Instead, all races can proactively move forward with a drive toward unity so the filters of our future are clear of debris.
Why not start tomorrow'