I took an exploratory tour through some neighborhoods only to discover something scary.  I was taken aback by not one but three20’ flag poles, one of which was flying what I recognized as the Confederate flag.  Even though I didn’t recognize the other two flags at the time, I knew based on their position of importance alongside this well-known Confederate Symbol, that they couldn’t mean anything good.   (More about the other two flags later)  Even a Confederate flag on a bumper sticker could elicit some degree of contempt on my part, but just days past the murders in Charleston South Carolina, spotting these three flags put fear in my heart. 

Sure, the Mason Dixon Line runs through Kansas, but I still think of my home state as safely removed from the “south.”  We’re Midwesterners, with good Midwestern values – whatever that means.   Yes even in Salina, a town I’ve learned has fairly good race relations, boldly flies the unambiguous symbol of hatred and racism. 

When I shared the photo with members of our staff, one of them queried, “I bet you got out of there as soon as possible?”  Well I definitely didn’t go up, knock on the door, pull out my reporters pad and pen and ask him about the two flags I was curious about, or engage him in conversation about my disagreement with his revisionist views of what the Civil War was actually about.  

You know, those revisionist views where people continue to insist the Confederate Flag is just a symbol of Southern culture and heritage and represents the side of the Civil War that fought against an oppressive government trying to enforce its rights over the rights of Southern states.  Those revisionist thinkers conveniently forget to mention that the biggest of those states’ rights was the right to maintain other human beings as slaves. 

You bet I didn’t go up to the homeowner’s door, and I took my picture from a distance.  I knew there was nothing I could do to change his twisted mind.  Even if I did, he’s not alone – even here in Kansas.  During my years in Kansas, I’ve seen scores of Confederate bumper stickers, license plates and even other flags.  People with views like this man/woman are everywhere.  His kind of thinking isn’t confined to “dumb rednecks” or red-state voters or Nascar fans, or any other easy stereotype we use to deceive ourselves.  And no, it’s not confined to the 50+ crowd, longing for the “good ole days.” 

Recently, I pulled up alongside a pickup truck in Wichita proudly adorned with a Confederate Flag sticker.  I expected the driver would be grey-haired and potbellied.  How surprised it was to look over and see a well-groomed young man who appeared to be in his early 20’s.  This kind of hatred is still being passed down through generations. 

That day I was in Salina, but it’s clear, it could have been anywhere in Kansas, anywhere in the United States.  After I took my picture, I took a deep breath and shook my head at the thought of this kind of hatred.  Then, I noticed it, I actually trembled.  It was a shake of fear and frustration that boiled up deep from within me.  Then I got the heck out of there. 

Bonita Gooch

Since 1996, Bonita has served as as Editor-in-Chief of The Community Voice newspaper. As the owner, she has guided the Wichita-based publication’s growth in reach across the state of Kansas and into...

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