It wasn’t too long ago that I got stuck in traffic behind a pickup truck decorated with Confederate flag bumper stickers. In the midst of this collage on the back window of the man’s truck a sticker read: “Never apologize for being white.”
I thought that was an embarrassment until Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said last week he wants to be the ideal candidate for “guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.”
Last week, Dean apologized for his comments made during Rock the Vote, but it seems he did so without fully knowing the ignorance behind his statements.
According to an article on CNN.com, Dean apologized and then said, “I think it’s time to move on.”
It’s ironic that Dean should be the one to say “It’s time to move on,” when he wants to be the ideal candidate for those who take pride in a flag that is more than 100 years old and represents an era of racism and slavery.
It amazes me how the Confederate flag is justified as a symbol of “Southern pride” or as a way to honor those who died during the Civil War when slavery was the main cause of the war. Seeing the comment “never apologize for being white” doesn’t convince me that I should be proud of such a thing while living in the South.
Dean added to his apology to say he doesn’t condone the use of the Confederate flag because “it’s a painful reminder of racial injustice and slavery.” But during the forum, Dean said his comment wasn’t wrong, even though he acknowledged that those who fly the Confederate flag are wrong because it is a racist symbol.
Maybe Dean did what most politicians often do — they don’t think before they speak.
Why else would the governor of Vermont say he wants to be a candidate for those who put Confederate flags on their pickup trucks if he believes it is wrong to display the flag?
Dean defended his comment by saying what he meant was Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted “the sons of slaveholders and the sons of slaves” to one day create a common good amongst each other. I don’t think driving to that meeting with Confederate flags on pickup trucks is what Dr. King had in mind.
Dean resorted to a tactic most often used in many political debates: to point the finger at the opposing party to show that they have done wrong. He later told CNN he used poor judgment, but he was only trying to recruit conservative white voters to the Democratic Party because Republicans have been dividing races since 1968.
Of course, fellow democratic candidate Wesley Clark had to chime in and say, “Well, he shouldn’t have said those things. I think all Americans — and this is a joke! — all Americans, even if they’re from the South and stupid, should be represented.”
If the Democratic candidates want a chance at removing George W. Bush in 2004, then they should probably stop shooting themselves in the foot when they speak.
In Dean’s apology, he added that he wants to bring races together by having an open dialogue about race. But his comments were hardly the way to begin, being that the Confederate flag is a symbol of division in U.S. history regarding the disagreement between the North and the South over “slave states” and “free states.”
Perhaps Dean’s campaign just got all the more appealing for those who enjoy flying the Confederate flag in their front yards and on their truck, but I’m sure he lost the respect of many in return. After all, this is same flag that flew above the Capitol of South Carolina for 38 years until it was removed partly in response to the NAACP’s organized boycott against South Carolina, though supporters have still tried to justify its presence as a symbol of freedom and rights. I thought that’s what the American flag was meant to symbolize?
Grace Agostin is a senior majoring in mass communications and an Associate Editor at the Oracle. firstname.lastname@example.org