Opinion

Making A Family Show A Hate Crime: One Nutty Professor’s Censorious Crusade

Ben Jones Author, 'Redneck Boy in the Promised Land

There is an old truism about academia that goes, “There is no idea so idiotic that it won’t be believed by a college professor.” Though this notion has been spectacularly reinforced by countless geniuses of the faculty lounge, an English professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has set a new standard of proof for the truth of that statement.

As Professor Nick Bromell recently wrote in Salon:

“It is a fine thing that the Confederate flag will no longer fly above the South Carolina state capitol. But displaying the Confederate flag anywhere is, at bottom, an act of hate. It should be recognized as such, and punished as a hate crime. Given the millions who suffered under the whip of slave masters, and all the families separated as slave traders sold sons and daughters away from their parents, and wives away from their husbands, All Americans should recoil from the Confederate flag with the same horror we feel for the Nazi swastika.”

With this statement, Bromell, who is listed as a teacher of American Studies, has not only revealed himself to be a bit of a cultural-cleansing Nazi thinker himself, but has also revealed a breathtaking ignorance of American history.

The flag under which human slavery created an economic boom for the United States was not the Confederate Battle Flag, but the Stars and Stripes, our beloved American Flag. Recent scholarship has shown clearly that the slave trade created Wall Street and was the founding cornerstone of American capitalism. From 1776 until 1865, the “peculiar institution” flourished under that banner.

I suggest Bromell and his fellow enemies of the First Amendment read Complicity, How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery, by writers of The Hartford Courant. Or he might dip into Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told, Slavery And The Making of American Capitalism. Slavery was the national sin, not the Southern sin. Those “millions who suffered under the whip of slave masters, and all the families separated as slave traders sold sons and daughters away from their parents, and wives away from their husbands,” looked up and saw Old Glory waving above the masts of those slave ships which sailed from New York and Boston and Newport, Rhode Island.

And though the international trade was ended in 1807, the cotton and the profits still went north, and created New England’s booming textile industry. And one cannot escape the fact that President Lincoln, in his First Inaugural Address, said that slavery was legal and protected and said that the Corwin Amendment should be supported. That amendment would have made slavery perpetual. Facts are stubborn things, professor.

There is no doubt that the symbols of the Confederacy have often been co-opted by  racists. There is also no doubt that these same haters have co-opted the American flag and the Christian Cross. But compared to the 70 to 80 milion descendants of those who fought for the South, these bigots are a tiny handful who represent nothing but their own sickness.

Consider this, Dr. Bromell:  Since 1979, a Confederate Battle Flag has been prominent on the television series “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The show was a mega-hit in the 1980’s, and was watched by Americans of every race and region. As there were only three national TV networks at the time, it was not unusual for 30+ million

Americans to tune in to “The Dukes” every week.  (As a member of that cast, and as a Southerner who was quite active in the Civil Rights Movement, it delighted me to discover that national surveys revealed a large segment of our audience was African American. This was reinforced for me on a personal level, as my office was in the King District of Atlanta, about a block from the MLK Center.)

While still on in primetime, “The Dukes” was widely syndicated to stations throughout the nation. With the advent of cable and satellite delivery, it has become a daily and permanent part of Americana and is beloved as an innocent family show that has now entertained several generations. It has also become a popular American export, shown all over the planet, and translated into several languages. With that kind of popularity came many hundreds of items of merchandise. And so everywhere in America there are millions of displays of that beautiful flag.

Among other items, it appears on toy cars, tee-shirts, lunch boxes, trash cans, pajamas, toothbrushes, board games, belt buckles, blankets, window curtains, jigsaw puzzles, posters, hot-wheels, tablecloths, all sorts of dishes, backpacks, notebooks, raincoats, shoes, sleeping bags, key rings, watches, coloring books, bubble gum cards, beach towels, guitars, slot racing tracks, toy pinball machines, big wheels, bicycles, skate boards, coloring books, wallets, Halloween costumes, vinyl records, cassettes and cds, t.v trays, yo-yos, shoelaces, and pup tents. There has also been a “Dukes” cartoon series, two “reunion” movies, three video games, and a feature film. The DVD boxed sets are extremely popular in the heartland.

So there are at this point probably 100 million Americans of all races, including millions of children, who are committing what you consider to be a “hate crime.” Go get ’em, Bromell, with all of the sanctimonious wrath you can muster!

“Some people,” said Mark Twain, “are educated beyond their intelligence.”