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Dispute over past isn't black and white
Seems odd that a black man would stand
up for the Confederate flag. Baffling, maybe, especially if the
man has been a member of the NAACP.
"That's the irony in this whole thing," said H.K. Edgerton,
a black Confederate. "Most people have no idea of any other
parts of the history."
Edgerton is the guy who marched in gray uniform with a battle
flag across Dixie a couple of years ago and to Richmond last year
to promote Confederate heritage. He was invited to join the Confederate
parade in Fox Hill on Saturday but had another Confederate History
Month event. If not, he'd be here in Hampton, proudly waving the
flag in the parade from Fox Hill Central United Methodist Church
down Beach Road to Clark Cemetery.
The Fox Hill Historical Society event has agitated some folks
in the city who see the blue cross and white stars waving and
think racism. Some of them will be at the NAACP protest scheduled
for tonight at City Hall.
Edgerton is a former president of the NAACP chapter in Asheville,
N.C. He fell out with the organization over its 1991 resolution
calling the flag an "ugly symbol of idiotic white supremacy."
"It's sad," said Edgerton, who chairs the Southern
Legal Resource Center. The nonprofit group defends Confederate
symbols. "The local NAACP there has a great opportunity,
especially up there in the state of Virginia, with Richmond being
the capital of the Confederacy. I can't understand why my people
are so easily tricked by these poverty pimps."
Not exactly words to heal by, but Edgerton did address the crux
of the issue: How do you celebrate the positives of Southern heritage
while being sensitive to those who lived through its negatives?
You do it through open, honest - though sometimes harsh - dialogue.
Edgerton promotes blacks who fought for and supported the Confederacy.
They defended the land, their families and culture. He said Confederate
groups existed to reverse the Northern propaganda that tarnished
Southern history. To them, for example, the Civil War was the
"war of Northern aggression." It was fought over states'
rights, not slavery.
Southern propaganda? Maybe. The word "slave" or "slavery"
is mentioned about 10 times in the Confederate Constitution.
Still, Edgerton said, most Confederates aren't in denial about
atrocities toward blacks, American Indians and other minority
groups before and after the war.
"It's not that they deny it," he said. "It's that
they say other people highlight the negative things like it's
the norm. It's unjust because the pictures that are painted, they
don't depict the whole situation."
Sounds as if we're still fighting the Civil War - ah, I mean
"the War Between the States."
Edgerton said life under Old Glory had been far from positive
for blacks and other minorities, so why vilify only the Confederate
flag - ah, I mean the Cross of St. Andrew?
"The bottom line is this: There were a lot of bad things
that happened to both black and white folks," he said. "Black
folks and white folks in the south of America - when it comes
to the bottom line - we were family."
The late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina wasn't the
only one who had a mixed-race child.
Edgerton insisted that he's no black face for a white cause.
Along his marching routes, he's heard whites holler, "We
don't need no n-- defending our flag."
"I can't stop and let that deter my efforts to realize Dr.
King's dream that the sons of slaves and slave owners would sit
down together," he said.
He's met blacks in Texas who were more afraid of losing jobs
to illegal immigrants from Mexico than of what the Confederate
flag supposedly means.
"They weren't worried about no flag," he said.
As for the NAACP and others in Hampton concerned about the parade,
he offers some advice:
"Instead of holding a vigil, they ought to be real smart
and walk right over there and embrace them. I think if they did
that, you would see a great healing in this country. A lot of
people want their black family back."
Sound odd? Maybe not, if it could work both ways.