An open Letter to the Marion County Commission
I am a native to Marion County although I no longer live there. Still, like so many others of all races who relocate from Marion County, I remain very proud of that heritage. This county has a strong and glorious history of amicable race relations, based on mutual respect and mutual understanding. Unlike many communities across America, Marion County did little to resist integration once it was court-ordered. This has remained a source of pride for us, and a testimony to the moral fortitude of its elected officials. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that we are very disheartened by the County’s decision to disregard the pain it is inflicting on its non-white citizens by flaunting the Confederate flag.
As you know, and have taken time to point out, the flag is a symbol. It is symbolic of a time when African Americans were slaves and it symbolizes the intent of people who were willing to die in order to prevent them from ever be-coming a free people. It symbolizes those many years of Jim Crowism when African Americans were denied the right to vote, the right to eat in restaurants, the right to try on clothes in a department store, the right to standard education (including the right to attend State sponsored universities), and the right to use public libraries. These are just a few of the many denials of full citizenship that the Confederate flag symbolizes for African Americans in this county – people whose familial roots are deeply buried here.
I do not think that the intent is to disrespect and unnecessarily inflict pain on the African American Community. However, I am not sure that you fully understand the gravity of this affront. By continuing to fly the flag, you are, in fact, creating a “them versus us” situation – one that only divides our citizenry in a county where harmony and goodwill have persisted for decades.
So many communities throughout the south have reconsidered the method by which Anglo- Americans can maintain ancestral pride without blatantly of-fending their African American citizens. There should be pride in the fact that both slavery and Jim Crowism have been eradicated and replaced with the concept of “One nation under God”. There should be pride in knowing that we all “sing America”. And there should be pride in the knowledge that Anglo-Americans and African Americans can work together to make this county a better place for all of us. Therefore, I respectfully request that this Commission rescind its decision to continue to raise this symbol of racial oppression.
I am, respectfully,
Dr. Gilbert L. Raiford, a Native Son Thursday, October 8, 2015