Breaking Brown

December 12, 2011

hip hop and the confederacy

Andre 3000

What follows is an excerpt from my piece about the black University of South Carolina student who fought to fly the flag of the Confederacy in his dorm room window, then, after winning the right to do just that, decided against it:

It is telling that Southern revisionists continue to promote the fiction that the main cause of the Civil War was something other than slavery.   It is just as telling that some black people readily buy into it.

It’s almost as if some black people feel as though those who fought under the Confederate flag, and those who still support the cause, couldn’t have possibly gotten it all that wrong. There must be some alternate explanation. The thing is, there isn’t an alternate explanation and the idea that there is one is just a  boldface lie.

Facts are important to me, but only to varying degrees. Meaning, I’m willing to cut a black college kid, whose just beginning to grapple with the world and everything in it, a bit more slack than a die hard white revisionist. So after the kid decided not to fly the Confederate flag, I chopped it all up to naivete and indoctrination. In short, I blamed his head and not his heart. And I pray that the University of South Carolina does a lot more work on his head before graduation day.

I was, however, taken aback when a friend told me that Outkast’s Andre 3000 wore a Confederate belt buckle in his “Ms. Jackson” video. I don’t know what surprised me more, the idea that a so called conscious rapper was rockin’ that flag or that I never noticed it. On the one hand, I can see how Andre 3000 may’ve used that Confederate belt buckle as a tool for needling the Jethros and Hirams of the world.  When you think you own a particular tradition and those who are not ideologically or culturally aligned with you adopt that symbolism, it can be infuriating. I can understand that opinion, but I certainly don’t share it.

I’m just tired of black folks adopting other people’s culture instead of building on our own. Let Bo’ ‘n  ‘nem have their damn flag. That war, and the flag that symbolized it, should reflect back to us the terrorism inflicted on our ancestors.  It’s not a joke, fashion symbol, or an opportunity for assimilation. I just wonder if adopting everything that white America has to offer, even regalia of our own subjugation, doesn’t reflect back poorly on us.  It’s as if we’ve decided that we can’t beat ’em, and by ” ’em” I mean racists, so we’ve joined them in the only way we can; symbolically.

Anyway, here’s the video. You can see the Confederate flag in the first few seconds. Tell me if you can watch it without wincing.

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