I’ve always liked Lynyrd Skynyrd’s music, particularly “Sweet Home Alabama”. Now, for me, the lyrics behind “Sweet Home Alabama” had zero meaning at the time. It was 1977, I was headed to Skyline High School in the Oakland Hills, where most of my friends from Bret Harte Junior High School were headed. The Oakland Raiders were Super Bowl Champions. The Oakland A’s were World Series Champions. The Golden State Warriors were two years off their 1975 NBA Championship. Life was grand in Oakland.
At that time, and through much of my life, the Confederate Flag was something I associated with The Dukes Of Hazard, a show on CBS TV featuring two guys driving a red Dodge car with a big engine, and their sister Daisy Duke.
It never once occurred to me back then that the Confederate Flag was the symbol of racism in the South, and for one reason: the people who presented it in those days didn’t do so to communicate white power, or supremacy, to me.
I never had some romantic idea about The South, and just plain figured that, at the time, it was racist. I loved visiting my Auntie Lovie and Uncle Sampson in Tennessee, but because they were at Tennessee State University, a Historically Black University, I never once tasted Southern racism as a teenager.
What’s changed is that, today, the people who sport the Confederate Flag on cars and on t-shirts do so not for any real love of the South, or because they want you to pour them a mint julep, it’s because they want to communicate that they’re racist. In other words, that they’re sick in the head, and to be avoided.
Heck, even Lynyrd Skynyrd saw how a lost generation started using The Confederate Flag as a symbol of hate, and said to CNN’s Fredrica Whitfield in 2012, that it was “for the KKK and Skinheads.”
As far as I’m concerned, Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the great American rock and roll bands of the 20th century (Yes, I know we’re in the 21st Century). They were like a number of people from the South and white I’ve come to know over the years: down-to-earth, good friends, loved Southern Rock, rich food, and a good time. Some of the guys dated black women; some of the white women dated black men. And it was all no big deal. (I should note that the Oakland concert was one of the original group’s last before a tragic plane crash in November of 1977.)
I think lovers of Southern Culture should be really pissed off with the Donald Trump-manipulated nutcases who’ve highjacked The Confederate Flag, and work on a real kind of counter-effort.
I think America would be better for it.