Saturday, May 15, 2010

I've Got One Thing to Say: Fly That Fucking Flag!

There he/she was: RuPaul in a sequined Confederate battle flag dress, playing the role of Miss Rachel Tensions in the 1995 movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. This was the shocking image to end all controversy. This was gay, drag, black, and Neo-Confederate --all at the same time. What could uptight, puritanical civil rights leaders say?

Here he/she was: A black man playing a woman in a sparkling Southern nationalist outfit. This was the minor role that roared. This was power, irony, comedy, and independence. What could deferent white liberals say?

What could anyone say? It's amazing. RuPaul is still a phenomenon that dares not speak its name. It's 2010, for God's sake! Many blacks still can't own up to the down low --and that flag! That flag! RuPaul completely disarms the white supremacists, when he/she wears it from time to time. The racists are speechless. The politically correct pussies are dumbfounded. He/she is not afraid.

There he was: A black model sporting --gasp!-- a Confederate battle flag shirt --but wait! The flag's colors are different. It's red, black, and green: the African nationalist colors first suggested by Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). (Africa sometimes favors the red, gold, and green of Ethiopia, but we won't belabor the point.)

Get this: Garvey, like Abraham Lincoln before him, wanted to send American blacks "back" to Africa. He didn't get very far with that idea, but he was the father of Pan-Africanism. The red, black, and green are his most visible legacy.

There it was: the shirt's unlucky number 13, or was it? The flag has 13 stars, which stand for the number of Confederate states. Weren't there only 11? Yes, but Missouri and Kentucky sent delegations to the Confederate Congress. So, they counted. Don't you just fucking love American history?

Who made this shirt? NuSouth Apparel of Charleston, South Carolina did. Owners Sherman Evans and Ángel Quintero sold clothes bearing the refashioned symbol. They came up with the idea in the early 90s, while promoting the rap band Da Phlayva. Evans and Quintero later opened NuSouth in 1997. The Confederate battle flag in Pan-African colors was an attempt at racial unity.

People had lots to say about this one. It made quite a splash in the press. Some liked it, others hated it, but everyone agreed that it was an original idea. Unfortunately, NuSouth is no more. It closed in 2004, according to the South Carolina Secretary of State's Office.

There they are: Two black men sporting Confederate battle flags! Are you fucking kidding me? This image is an Internet favorite, but not everyone knows the story behind it.

Anthony Hervey (left) and his brother Harry are protesting the 2000 closure of the Eight Flags Display on US 90 by Harrison County, Mississippi. The County closed the beachfront monument after receiving protests about the Confederate battle flag, which symbolized one of eight historical governments that ruled the area.

Anthony Hervey claims that he's a descendant of a Black Confederate. What the hell? Who was a Black Confederate? A slave who worked for Confederate troops? A slave who defended his master's family and property? A free black who fought for the South? While historians debate the definitions and numbers of official and unofficial black fighters of the Confederacy, today's black Neo-Confederates take up the flag against racial polarization, political correctness, and anti-Southern historical interpretation.

What do all these guys have in common? They're strong. They're courageous. They take the flag and make it their own. They refuse to be drama queens about history. They refuse to give ammunition to the enemy. They've taken away the only weapon white supremacists have.

Perhaps the funniest take on this nuclear bomb of reverse psychology is Blind Supremacy from Chappelle's Show (Season 1 / 2003). Comedian Dave Chappelle plays Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist who's unaware that he's black. The two-part sketch takes the form of a fake documentary by Frontline, the PBS documentary series.

Chappelle's Show
Frontline - Clayton Bigsby
Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story

Chappelle's Show
Frontline - Clayton Bigsby, Pt 2

Buy Chappelle's Show DVDsBlack ComedyTrue Hollywood Story

The Confederate battle flag only makes a cameo in Part 2 of this hilarious skit, but the greater point is that Chappelle turns racism on its head. All the insults lose their power, when blacks take ownership of them. It's like black rappers saying nigger a gillion times.

We've heard all the reasons against the flag: It's racist. It's a Klan symbol. It symbolizes slavery. It's a redneck banner. It represents segregation. The South lost; get over it.

Can a flag be racist? Well, if it can be, then the American flag is the most racist flag of all! The Stars and Stripes flew over the Northern abandonment of Reconstruction, which set back civil rights a hundred years. Count them: one hundred fucking long years! A century of Jim Crow! It also flew over the genocide of Native Americans. It was even the flag of Japanese American internment. We could go on and on. Its sins are many.

For the record, I'm a goddamn, card-carrying member of the NAACP. Look and learn. I have fought against de facto segregation. I have produced fair media depictions of different races and ethnicities. My human rights credentials are in order.

I believe that minorities --be they gays, women, blacks, or Martians-- should always fight from a position of strength. We should take up the flag, reinvent it, make it our own, and rally everyone around it. We should recognize positive uses of the flag: We use it to stage battle reinactments. We use it to honor the Confederate dead. We use it to teach students about the Civil War. We use it to round out RuPaul's wardrobe.

Speaking of which, what does RuPaul have to do with masculine gay guys? Nothing --and everything! We may not ask him/her out on a date. We have hard-ons for butch and athletic guys, but we do admire his/her courage, we certainly enjoy his/her comedy, and we appreciate his/her honest ambiguity about gender: hence, his/her use of he/she, his/her, and him/her.

Back to the flag, we should defang racist abuses of the rebel symbol:

Hey cracker, put down that flag! Robert E. Lee looked down on white trash like you.

Go on! Get out of here, you goddamn rednecks! How dare you desecrate the flag of Southern honor?

Hey, hey KKK! How many relatives did you fuck today?

Yo' mama is a nigger-lover.

Forget Oprah and her sniveling, crybaby drama over the mere sight of the flag, the mere mention of slavery, the mere suggestion of segregation. Suppression of history is a pathetic tool of the weak. Black history is a courageous, glorious, riveting rag-to-riches story. African Americans literally built American civilization with their own hands. We do them honor by bravely using the flag to disarm our enemies. No Fear should be our motto, just like the clothing company that bears the name:

I proudly wear my Confederate (battle flag) polo shirt, and sometimes people say I look like a Neo-Nazi skinhead. I show them my NAACP membership card. I tell them I'm honoring my two Confederate soldier ancestors. I say, "You judged a book by its cover. Isn't that what racism is all about?" Talk about having a conversation about race.

For something different, there's always Their clothes range from the overt to under-the-radar symbolism designed to subvert school bans on Neo-Confederate imagery. There are countless other stores that sell the South in all its glory.

The campaign to bury the flag and forget American history is a complete failure. It divides people. It makes for silly political melodrama. It trivializes the civil rights movement. It makes liberals look like a bunch of weak, cowardly, namby-pamby whiners.

It's time for a new approach. It's time to stare at the flag. It's time to imagine new positive uses for it.
What about the gay rebel flag? Well, that's a step in the right direction. If it becomes popular, it could be the biggest reinterpretation since NuSouth's African nationalist version. Why, it could even be the quinessential Southern symbol of the fucking Twenty-First Century!

We can all have fun with this. We can reshape the future with this. We can bring constituencies together with this. The opinion, "The flag belongs in a museum," is such a goddamn cop-out. In politics, that's called sitting in two seats with one butt. It never ceases to amaze me how many politically correct wankers there still are in the Age of the Internet. The Confederate battle flag no more "belongs in a museum" than the First Amendment does.

Civil rights leaders, deferent white liberals, and the politically correct speech police treat minorities like children. We don't need to be "protected" from racist speech. We don't need to be "rescued" from homophobia. We can fight this battle ourselves, and we have just the flag to do it. The thing we feared most will be our salvation.

(John McDermott contributed the information about NuSouth's closing. He is the business editor of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina.)


  1. I agree 100%... Preach on honey, preach on!! I got your back.

  2. Enjoy vintage beefcake!