Straight Outta Cotton
The top-grossing movie in America this past weekend was Straight Outta Compton, the story of the rise of the hip-hop legends N.W.A. With its $57 million opening box office take, morning show appearances and (supposed) fans like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the film's success illustrates the mainstream acceptance of rap culture once viewed by some as subversive, rebellious and even dangerous.
But at the same time in Florida, a different group rallied to protect their increasingly--and deservedly--fringe symbol of racism, violence and white supremacy. Call them Crackers With Attitude:
Angry protesters were on hand as hundreds of supporters of the Confederate battle flag took the streets to show their colors.
The 15-mile road rally, which started at Heritage Park in Plantation and ended in Markham Park in Sunrise.
As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported Monday, Sunday's neo-Confederates assembled for what was the 173rd rally for Robert E. Lee's old battle flag since Dylann Roof slaughtered nine at the Emanual AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Event organizer Chris Nicolaus, who promoted the rally on the South Florida Rednecks Facebook page, defended the gathering this way:
"I understand that the flag may be seen as a symbol of oppression, but this is not about hatred. We are not the KKK -- this is about southern heritage."
Brian K. Turner of the Sons of Confederate Veterans agreed." We do not condone racism or hate," he said, groups," adding "We believe there is no correlation between the massacre in South Carolina and symbolism. What needs to be discussed is mental illness [of the accused shooter]."
Of course, the Confederacy's best and brightest left no doubt about what their southern heritage was really about. Which is why the letter ("A Flag for All of Us") signed by dozens of Mississippi celebrities calling for the Magnolia State to remove the old CSA emblem from the state flag is a welcome measure. As the luminaries, including former Ole Miss and NFL star Archie Manning, wrote:
It is simply not fair, or honorable, to ask black Mississippians to attend schools, compete in athletic events, work in the public sector, serve in the National Guard, and go about their normal lives with a state flag that glorifies a war fought to keep their ancestors enslaved.
(It is unfortunate that the signatories limited to their critique to just a question of black and white. As the character Isaac Jaffe rightly explained on the 1990's TV show, Sports Night, "It's a banner of ignorance and violence and a war that pitted brother against brother, and to ask young black men and women, young Jewish men and women, Asians, Native Americans, to ask Americans to walk beneath its shadow is a humiliation of irreducible proportions. And we all know it.")
In any event, as the New Yorker and Rolling Stone emphasized, Straight Outta Compton resonates with the viewers today not just because of the continued vitality of hip-hop, but because the police brutality it captured a generation ago is once again dominating the national headlines. As for the gang colors of C.W.A., 150 years after the end of the Civil War more and more Americans of all stripes thankfully want to consign them to the dustbin of history. Even without their beloved flag, the neo-Confederates will always have their favorite rap:
Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton
Old times there are not forgotten.
Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land!