Growing up as child, one of my favorite shows to watch was the Dukes of Hazzard which aired on CBS television from 1979 through 1985. That should come as no surprise. After all, not only did I think of Bo and Luke Duke as two cool dudes but they also drove one of the coolest cars ever, a ’69 Dodge Charger known as The General Lee. As for Daisy Duke… I was too young to care one bit about her short-shorts and cleavage. Later on, as an adult, I never had any interest in seeing the 2005 Film titled The Dukes of Hazzard but I have on occasion enjoyed a little childhood nostalgia by watching an occasional rerun of the show.
Innocence and Ignorance
For the sake of disclosure… I am white and I am a Christian trying to follow Jesus. I was born in Arkansas and raised in a small Indiana town by two working-class Christian parents, and I am comfortably in my element among southern and midwestern cultures. I share my little history with The Dukes of Hazzard because unless you have been hiding out somewhere deep in a cave, then you are aware of the controversy surrounding this show now. On June 17, 2015 a mass-shooting occurred at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine Christians dead. The killer, driven by racist motives, intentionally targeted black people. In addition to the discovery of the killer’s racist manifesto, photos surfaced of the killer waving a Confederate Flag… surely as a symbol of his racism and hatred for black people.
Consequently the Confederate Flag has come under scrutiny, with various states and business seeking to remove any display of the Confederate Flag. Ergo, the decision of TV Land to cease airing reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. Of course, like so many other issues of our day, this has become a political controversy with people taking sides. Some are for the Confederate Flag, claiming that it simply represents southern heritage while others, like myself, won’t shed a tear over its loss because they see it for what it is… a symbol of racism.
Caught up in this issue is The Dukes of Hazzrd. Is the show simply a portrayal of a couple of good ole’ boys living their down-home southern country life or does it also represent an era full of racism that was sanctioned by southern state power? As a child, I was oblivious to any of the cultural meaning this show symbolized. I watched the show purely for entertainment, imagining myself as Bo and Luke Duke driving around in a cool muscle car. When I watched The Dukes of Hazzard, I was innocent but I was also ignorant.
Let me expand on this innocence and ignorance a bit more. At ten years old I knew very little about slavery and racism. I certainly didn’t know that for all the good things one might say about southern culture, that there was a horrible history of oppression inflicted upon black people that still lived on in the minds and values of some people. It’s the same way with The Andy Griffith Show. For all the good qualities we might make about the fictional town of Mayberry, in real life most of those good qualities existed only for white people. As I have written about before, I doubt many, if any at all, black people want to go back to the era of America that gave us Mayberry… “Not when being black meant being forced to ride at the back of the bus, not having the right to vote, and even being lynched.”
Reconciliation Trumps Politics
It’s the year 2015 and in less than a month I will turn forty-two. I am neither innocent nor ignorant anymore and neither are you. I am more and more aware of the ways in which I have helped sustain racism in America (read this personal story I share here) and I am more and more aware of the oppressive racism that still exists today. Further more, you may claim if you like that the Confederate Flag simply represents southern heritage… that it isn’t a symbol of racism but that is just a flat out denial of the truth! The Confederate Flag has always symbolized racism and white pride which is exactly why the Klu Klux Klan has always carried it and why Dylan Roof so proudly waved this flag for the camera.
I won’t lose any sleep if I never see another car chase involving the General Lee. It’s the same with the removal of the Confederate Flag. More importantly, I don’t see why you would either… especially if you are a Christian. I’m not naïve, so I don’t believe that removing the Confederate Flag from display on public properties will end racism. What I believe is that as Christians, God has called both we are called to something much more glorious than clinging to the foolish politics of supporting the Confederate Flag.
As Christians, we are called to live as participants in God’s ministry of reconciliation. In fact, at the heart of the gospel is God’s work of reconciling all people as one in Christ. That is, God is destroying the barriers of hostility that divide us so that we can live as neighbors rather than enemies (cf. Eph 2:13-14). So even if I wanted to, I won’t wave around the Confederate Flag because I know how offensive that might be to my black friends and neighbors… Because I believe that the ministry of reconciliation trumps politics everyday and that means valuing a relationship with people over seeing a Confederate Flag on display when I visit the south. To say otherwise and to value preserving the Confederate Flag over pursuing reconciliation with with people, including neighbors of different race, ethnicity, etc…, puts us in opposition to the work of God. Woe be to anyone who opposes God!
If you care, and as a Christian you should, go talk to your neighbors, especially those who are different than you. Speak to those who believe differently, have a different skin color, talk in a different language, and so forth. More importantly, listen to what they are saying. Listen and learn! Listen to their stories. That’s when you will begin to hear the nuances of how systematic racism is still at work, which is necessary if our society ever hopes of bringing justice to this issue. But more importantly, when you listen, you’ll begin let go of those things that may divide you from your neighbor and in turn learn how to love them as yourself.
That’s the way forward because that is what the future will be when Christ returns. There won’t be any flag, not even an American flag, nor any racism or the symbols that holds on to those broken politics. If you want to participate in the new life that God is bringing about in Christ, then clinch not to the politics of the old dying world but live fully as practitioners of reconciliation by loving God as you love your neighbors as yourself.