Sunday, May 13, 2007

Flying the flag

That may look like a Confederate flag someone decided to fly at a community picnic down South somewhere. But it isn't.

It is in fact a special KKK edition of the Confederate flag -- replete with the words "White Power" and "Ku Klux Klan" -- that fluttered over a community picnic in Rapid City, Michigan:
At a May 6 barbecue, organizers served up a T-bone steak, baked potato and all the fixings for just $10. Overhead flapped a Confederate flag that bore white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan markings.

A Klan banner smack in the middle of a northern Michigan, small-town cookout sponsored by the Rapid City Businessmen's Association caused a stir among some who attended. The flag also focused unwanted attention on this spot-on-the-map about 20 miles northeast of Traverse City.

"When we drove into the parking lot and got out of the car, I was shocked and disgusted and wanted to get back in the car," said Dick Ault, of Alden, who said he stayed because a group of friends had gathered there. "Some thought it was a Confederate flag, which was bad enough, but then we saw it was a KKK flag."

The flag included a cross inside a circle, accompanied by the phrases "white power" and "Ku Klux Klan," but its message didn't bother everyone who attended.

"I didn't care one way or another about the flag being up. It's not a big deal," said Tom Tucker, of Rapid City, a cookout volunteer. "Should it have been up? No. I stood the pole up myself. Whoever put the flag up, I don't know, but I put the pole up. If anybody is going to holler at anyone, it should be me."

A tattered American flag arrived with the pole and they couldn't fly that, Tucker said, so someone retrieved another flag to run up the line.

Probably the most noteworthy aspect of the story is the way everyone in the community scrambles to cover for the person who raised the flag. They're all equally quick to deny that the flag's appearance meant anything racial.

The main characterization of the event by locals was that it was all just "funnin'," a joke, something not worth taking seriously since hey, it was one of them, and they're surely not racist.

Well, just so no one has any illusions about this case: This flag is produced for a very narrow constituency and probably was very expensive. Anyone who would own it, as well as fly it, would have to be very serious about the ideology it represents. The local townspeople who defend this person as harmless are covering up for an ugly racist in their midst. They have to be in serious denial about the meaning of this incident to blow it off.

If white people sometimes wonder why minorities sometimes view their protestations off innocence on racial issues with deep suspicion, they need only look at incidents like these for a simple explanation.

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