Friday, June 19, 2015

Southerners, you didn't protect your brand

In the irregular moments I update this blog, I try to fill it with as much Southern comedy and cartoons as I can. But in light of the horror that happened just a few miles down the road from me Wednesday night, I find it neither appropriate nor feasible to bring any humor into the murder of the nine innocent people at the hands of an admitted white supremacist.

The only truly uplifting moment that has arisen from this tragedy rests in the way the Charleston community has flocked in force to the church on Calhoun Street. A polychromatic gathering of Charlestonians, native or transplant, have joined as one to send a message to the entire country: This won’t stand. This isn’t our South Carolina.

And thousands of people of this state have now turned their sights on a familiar target that has fluttered in some way, shape, or form on our statehouse grounds since 1961: the Confederate battle flag. Since the mid 90s, the flag on the statehouse grounds has been a heated topic in our state. It cost one governor his office when he said he would take it down. It’s resulted in an NAACP and NCAA boycott that still continues today. It’s an issue that more than one politician has called “political suicide” to address. As a born-and-raised South Carolinian, I recall just how much anger has been generated by both sides over this symbol.

Let’s be clear: that flag didn’t drive Dylann Roof to murder nine innocent black people. His actions come from a much darker place inside his soul and mind, and no flag waving in front of the statehouse can shape or alter that. But how our state leaders react to the tragedy—shedding tears and lowering the state flag to half-staff while still flying the Confederate battle flag proudly—is one reason why our state—and the South—still struggles with racial strife.

The immediate counter response is predictable and well-worn. “It’s about heritage, not hate.”

And to that, there is only one word with which we need to answer that argument.

Bullshit.

You see, for those of you who truly believe the flag stands for your heritage and the glamorous aspects of the antebellum South, you’ve made a big mistake over the decades. You haven’t protected your brand.

Here’s what I mean from a marketing perspective. Disney will sue the pants off anyone, big or small, who uses Mickey’s likeness without their approval. Remember the stickers of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes urinating on various logos? Bill Watterson, the strip’s creator, sued to protect that brand from such usage. Does Coca-Cola let just anyone use their iconic logos whenever they see fit? Try to sell merchandise with your favorite college’s logo without their permission and watch the cease and desist letter arrive promptly in your mailbox.

These entities protect their brand so that it doesn’t become soiled. So it’s not misused for despicable purposes. So it’s not twisted beyond the sanctity of those who created.

And you, fellow Southerners, didn’t protect your brand.

You let the Ku Klux Klan take the flag as its banner following the Civil War. You stood by as racist segregationists waved it as their rallying symbol while fighting against the Civil Rights movement. You didn’t stop it as it flew proudly at Selma and was held up to taunt black Americans as they crossed that bridge. You’ve turned a blind eye as neo-Nazis in America and beyond adopted it as part of their symbolism. Even the hoisting of the flag to the top of the South Carolina statehouse in 1961 was meant as a direct affront to the Civil Rights movement (no, it wasn’t to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War—stow that crap elsewhere).

If you wanted it to stand for heritage and not hate, you should have tried a lot harder to keep it from being associated with hatred.

Maybe there wasn’t much you could do. A swastika, prior to World War II, used to have a benevolent meaning. Now, it’s synonymous with evil. Perhaps you can’t stop a group of ignorant, hateful people from sullying a brand and giving it a permanent new meaning.

But you do, at some point, have to accept that your brand is lost. You have to accept that it was adopted decades ago by the bottom feeders of our nation, and it doesn’t get to represent what you want it to anymore. The hateful people of America took ownership of it long ago.

Look no further than the front license plate of Dylann Roof’s car. The Confederate flag was his brand. Are you sure you still want it to be yours?

Bring it down, South Carolina.  

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Just a quick reminder that my Southern comedy novel, Tallyho in the Squat, is available FREE for download from Amazon on June 24 and 25.

Download it here FREE starting June 24.


29 comments:

  1. Drugs,bred hatred, & the devil in his heart were his brand. Not the Confederate flag!

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    1. I feel like you didn't even read this.. It's almost like you read the last two sentences. You missed his entire argument. It's important to approach controversial issues such as this with an open mind. I must commend him for a great read. This post was very well written especially compared to the poorly written, grammatically incorrect articles I've been reading on Facebook recently.

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    2. Then why was he so proudly displaying it on the front of his car, rather than a picture of Satan?
      Please - the only Confederate flag that matters, is the flag of surrender.
      Get over yourselves, and quit celebrating being on the losing end of a war.

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  2. Thank you this explains it perfectly. It is the least we can do to start healing the wound. It isn't an easy fix but it means that something is being done to show that we don't stand for this kind of hatred. These kinds of symbols that stand for 'history' belong if anything in a Museum not displayed prominently and given more importance than the actual flag especially after a horrible hate crime is committed in your state.

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  3. "Heritage not hate"....unfortunately there is a longstanding Heritage OF Hate...

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  4. Excellent comments. I agree, we missed our chance to protect our brand. I want to share this with my Facebook friends, some of which are quite narrow minded and shallow. I think they are actually closet racists, but would probably never admit it. They can never understand how powerful a symbol such as the Confederate Flag can be to some people, and how it can motivate evil actions. Some of these friends are even in my own family, and they claim that Governor Haley banned the flag yesterday from the State Capitol. I tried to tell them that she can not legally do this, but they insist they saw her ban it on national TV yesterday. Sometimes you can't win an argument with people who already have their minds made up. Facts only get in the way, I'm afraid. Thank you for a very intelligent, articulate article. I am a native South Carolinian who is proud of my state and hope we will remove the Confederate Flag from the state house grounds once and for all, grow from this and learn as much as we possibly can from this tragic event as a people.

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  5. More slaves and minorities died under the US banner, so ,if were going on how much blood is on a flag, then ol'glory should come down next....right? AND I will bet not one single slave ship ever flew a confederate banner.

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    1. The US flag at least represents an effort to change. I dont see that with the Confederate flag. Im willing to accept that a lot of people use the flag from a position of non hate but too many others use it as a symbol of hate.

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    2. Died to oppose it, or died to defend it? There's a difference. And for what it's worth, no slave ship ever flew the Confederate flag because the Confederacy was never recognized as a sovereign state.

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  6. I thought this entry in your blog was spot on with your heading of the south not protecting its brand regarding the symbolistic confederate flag standing for segration and racial hatred. Let me sum up the other side of my feelings on what created this stir in the first place: Many [including his family] stood by and watched this man grow from a child into a n adult in his outward display of hatred and malice. His family even purchased him a high power .45 calibre pistol for his birthday. They allowed him to don his togs with symbols standing for hatred and segregation. They watched him grow up failing to make friends and classmates like others in his social group. They watched him grow into a non-productive adult withdrawn from society. Does anyone but me feel those responsible for his well being stood by and allowed this child to grow into an explosive, calculated, cruel murderer???

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  7. Excellent points Sir. A good plate of Shrimp and Grits is my Southern identity brand!

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  8. Rather than 'take it down' and concede with shame why not write a proposed plan to restore the tarnished brand. For many Americans - Southerners and non-Southerners - the Rebel flag simply means 'Take a Stand. Stand Your Ground. Hold to Your Beliefs'. Period. I look forward to your next blog and hope your proposal is not about giving into mismanagement of the brand in the past and instead is an approach of restore and rebuild the true meaning of historic flag.

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    1. The Confederate flag to me - a great, great granddaughter of both Confederate and Union Officers - means something completely different.... when I see it, I think of hillbillies, white trash and rednecks with an axe to grind... and it symbolizes for me the losing side of a war that centered around the slavery of a people who didn't ask to come here, but were bought and sold and brought here... If that's the Heritage and History and "Stand your Ground, Hold on to Your Beliefs" symbolism you want to project to the world, by all means, hang one outside of your front door... but for me, as a South Carolinian, I'd rather not suffer through the embarrassment of even more debate over whether or not this relic of the past should be taken down from the capital and put up in a museum.

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  9. Sorry, you aren't listening. You need to think in larger historical terms, not just American history. When ANY flag or symbol has this sort of thing happen to it, there is no place for a "plan" to restore a symbol. It's just not doable.

    The swastika is the perfect example. Over hundreds and even thousands of years, it was just a symbol that any number of societies used. Then there was the first half of the 20th century. That brand will be too tarnished now for centuries.

    And I really think there is a small and declining interest in restoring the Confederate tarnished brand. Most of those who even think about it objectively realize that while the society it represented may have had some qualities you find admirable, the overall remembrances are of things NOT so admirable. I don't think you can win at this.

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  10. yesterday, i would have thought this was an excellent argument. after researching it, reading Alexander Stephens's cornerstone speech, and each southern state's Declaration of Causes of Secession, i now whole-heartedly disagree. if anything, letting racist hate groups use the confederate battle flag was completely appropriate as that is what the confederate cause has been about since the very beginning.

    Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens
    The Cornerstone Speech
    March 21, 1861
    “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

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    1. Jennifer,
      I agree somewhat with you. The war was, primarily, over slavery, whether Southerners want to admit it or not. The Articles of Secession and what you quoted prove that. However, keep in mind that most of the people fighting in the war were not slave owners and were not fighting for that cause. Like many wars, it was started by the aristocracy for their own personal prejudices and the burden was placed on the common man. However, I can understand the idea that those common men believed in a more idealistic cause rather than one of slavery and profit. Therefore, I think some Southerners who have supported it out of their history and heritage have valid arguments.

      But again, it was long hijacked by the terrible people who feel otherwise.

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  12. Here's the problem with your logic. It's not a protected logo or brand. And American's live in a country of free speech. In such a situation, it isn't the responsibility of those who use it in a peaceful way to maintain its image of peace to others, it is the responsibility of other people to understand that there are those who might not use it in that way, and to focus their efforts on the ACTIONS of those people, NOT the symbol itself or how it MAY be used.

    Case in point (You foolishly brought it up). Buddhists still use the svastika/swastika/gammadion, and it can be seen in countless nations where it can also be used as a symbol of hate. I see it daily. And I'm quite sure that you are not going to run into a Buddhist temple and rage against their use of it, are you?

    And by saying "take it down", I'm sure you are referring to that one flying on government grounds, and not suggesting that there be legislation to ban the use of it (people are still free to fly that Nazi flag as well). In that case, I don't think that anyone has any belief that the flag is flying on government property for the purpose of racial hatred, to even suggest it is a bit of a stretch. It is now, more than ever, used in a historical context. And therefore, it is up to YOU to understand that use and to differentiate that from the actions of a nutcase in a church.

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    1. whats it like being a white supremacist?

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    2. Just curious here... where geographically do you live/work that you see the svastika/swastika/gammadion on a daily basis. I live in South Carolina, and almost never see it. I suspect it's NOT Germany?

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    3. Are you seriously calling the flag of secession a peace symbol?

      Sorry, but you should have 'cognitive dissonance' tattooed across your forehead, my friend.

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