Facebook is becoming more and more a place where one can find exactly what people are thinking and saying unfiltered. With the recent election, people are becoming more comfortable with expressing hateful and non-inclusionary opinions. Recently I saw a post from Chris King, a vocal and important member of the LGBTQ community in Galesburg, calling out John Shott of Shotts Auto Machine Shop for flying the confederate flag outside his businesses property.
The post sparked a heated discussion about what that flag symbolizes and the right to free speech. Jeremy Karlin, a Galesburg City Council member, even commented
“At the end of the day, this is about responding to willful ignorance. Those complaining about football players disrespecting the flag or the anthem are willfully ignorant of the principles that the flag and anthem symbolize: freedom, justice and equality. Those who insist on flying a confederate flag for history’s sake are willfully ignorant of the principles that flag represents: bigotry, hate and racism.”
Shott showed up to Monday’s city council meeting to respond.
“He should have just kept to himself or let it go,” Shott said.
The Register Mail’s Rebecca Susmarski did a great job reporting the issue and some of the discussion has continued on the Facebook post of the article. This is one of those issues where it’s difficult to sit back and not speak out on the matter, especially when such hateful and polarizing things are being said. It is easy to not get involved, though. I could sit back and not have to pick a side of the story and get involved, because I have privilege and I do not feel victimised by the systems that the flag represents.
The Confederate flag is a symbol of hatred to people. That is a reality and cannot be ignored. And that is enough to warrant any individual to want to distance themselves from being identified with any such symbol. I understand the freedom of speech argument, but it is dismissive, disrespectful and ironic to try and use a free speech argument to silence the other side, and sweep this issue under the rug. Sure, we all have the right to be racist, sexist, or hateful but that does not mean it is right. The same rights that protect that gentleman from flying his flag outside his property also protect those who protest what that flag represents.
Dismissing opinions as wrong encourages people to stop listening. Individuals who are defending the Confederate flag with the excuse that they are expressing their right to free speech assume that those who disagree with them support the suppression of the flags-bearers rights. This is the same generalizing that they condemn the left for doing towards Republicans.
Listening is so important during these volatile times. Hasty generalizations happen and becoming aware of them can help address how we categorize and judge people. It’s important to take a step back sometimes and listen to those emotionally involved. Hearing out individuals and realizing the reality of their perspective helps paint as much of the picture as possible.