Torn apart: The South’s struggles between old chains and a progressive future

It has been a rollercoaster week in history.

From the sorrowful South Carolina shooting, which resulted in a controversial debate over racism and the Confederate flag, and the celebration of the SCOTUS decision to finally legalize gay marriage in the U.S, we as college students within one of the largest southern metropolitan hubs are witnessing one of the most progressive, yet divided times of our lives.

The south – not just the deep south, but southern U.S., long renowned for its conservative values is split. It’s easy to see that most millennials generally favor progressiveness and the upcoming changes. You might feel that this sums up the view most people hold  and that as an open-minded college student, you’re in the minority in your opinions. Perhaps you might even feel pressured to hide your beliefs from others, but keep in mind that you should always feel comfortable to express what you think- it’s called freedom of speech.

Let’s face it: despite the push for equal rights, the public is failing to see the point of it all in the midst of their divide. When it comes to supporting the Confederate flag or gay marriage, it’s either seen as one big party or the end of the world — but they’re wrong.

What many are failing to see here is for one, the whole purpose of gay marriage is to support equality and love, but equality cannot be had without respect and understanding. I was fortunate enough that none of my friends on social media were hateful enough to post disrespectful comments, no matter what their position was, but many of my friends went through “friend list cleanups”.

These people deleted anyone who didn’t share their perspective on the decision, pointing to negativity such as that shown by former. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who decided to react to the radical changes in our country with a tweet:


It’s just as wrong either way- when you delete those who don’t see eye to eye with you is promoting a type of blindness and hatred. Because here’s the thing: It’s not about your personal beliefs, but rather learning to support and respect the rights of others.

The same goes for the Confederate flag- you may not believe in the values represented by the flag, but that flag is a huge part of history. While it is a symbol of a darker, time, according to historian James McPherson, most of the Confederate soldiers weren’t actively fighting for the preservation of slavery.

They were fighting to defend their states and their country.People assume that the Confederate flag represents only the preservation of slavery without taking into account the other meanings and events that lie behind it. Again, going back to the idea of free speech- if we’re going to censor everything, and that we don’t personally agree with, then what’s the point of having the first amendment that gives us that right?

After the South Carolina shooting, when Pastor Clementa Pinckney’s body was carried past the Confederate flag on the way to the viewing at the Capitol, people were outraged and called for the removal of the flag. However, Pinckney himself had voted to keep the flag at its current location, showing that despite personal beliefs, he had enough respect for the culture and history of the south to vote in its favor.

For years, America has been called the Melting Pot, but I despise that nickname. In a melting pot, you lose your individuality. Everything gets white washed,  and instead of being the “great red, white and blue” everyone becomes the same.

But while racism and racial hatred views are not to be generally tolerated or excused, those individuals are still entitled to their opinions no matter how wrong the rest of us think they are. If we deny them the right to their ideas, we’re no better than the folks we ourselves point fingers at.

The South (and the U.S. as a whole) needs to examine itself and learn acceptance and love. With SCOTUS allowing gay marriage, and the Confederate flag on its way out a new era of love and acceptance has begun.

We cannot allow ourselves to be blind to the prejudice that still exists. Even if you don’t necessarily agree with something, promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, so what- it won’t directly affect your personal life.

As Congressman John Lewis said in his tweet on the SCOUTS decision- “Races don’t fall in love, genders don’t fall in love– people fall in love.”