I drive by a confederate flag every day. When I take my dogs to the park, drive to work, visit my friends, or even go grocery shopping, that flag assaults my eyes. Some days, it’s blowing in the wind proudly. Other days, it hides cowardly behind the American flag. However, the feeling of seeing it is always the same: numbness.
Young-Nikki would have ignored it. Teenage-Nikki would have been scared of it. College-Nikki would have burned it to the ground. Law-school-Nikki would have given a passionate speech about intersectionality. However, this Nikki, the beautiful public defender, struggles to find the right action for that flag.
For Black Americans, it’s a symbol of hate to justify any 17-year-old aspiring cops who love Donald Trump to shoot at them when protesting for something as simple the right to live. For Hispanic and Latino Americans, it’s a symbol of pure prejudice. For Asian Americans, it’s a symbol of the racism tax they pay and may even encourage their children to silently endure. For White Americans, it depends. If you’re an ally, the confederate flag means disappointment. If you’re a silent spectator, then it means that history was rough for people of color. And, if you’re not any of those two, then that flag is no big deal so get off your high horse you “liberal snowflakes.”
I try very hard not to cry about the state of our nation. I use my anger, disappointment, and fear constructively. I write these blog posts, I volunteer for political campaigns, I donate to several causes, and I sign as many petitions as I can. But, more importantly, I defend indigent people who come from a variety of different backgrounds. Every day, I am reminded that I cannot help anyone unless they want to help themselves. I can argue for chances and opportunities. I will advocate fiercely for the best outcome for my client and educate those around me about the poverty we’ve created and sustained.
However, none of that matters if the person on the receiving end doesn’t want to listen. If the person doesn’t want to make an emotional connection, learn from the data, or simply reflect then I can’t create any change. The people who want to keep their internalized bias and prejudice don’t fear change. Rather, they fear being uncomfortable. All of sudden, things that were familiar, such as covert prejudice, are seen as villainous. They are forced to be thrown out of their comfort-zone which causes anxiety leading to only fear. That is why a Trump support will not be dissuaded from voting against him. That is why that person will never take down his confederate flag when I drive by it. And, that is why our country is polarized.
Unfortunately, we celebrate an “Us v. Them” culture. We think that culture may be the only way to change. Instead, it’s only polarized us even more. I don’t know how we change our approach to getting people to understand that health care for all, taxing the corporate 1%, black everything matters, women’s reproductive rights, immigration rights, and gun control are helping all of us. That these issues shouldn’t polarize us. But, they do. They’re seen as us being liberal snowflakes.
I feel numb every time I see that confederate flag because I’ve accepted my role in all of this: to preach the end of polarization. It’s my job, actually, my duty to educate those who share my background about these issues. I must encourage people to see faith, hope, trust, and sensitivity as qualities of strength. And, that, keeping your head down and accepting any type of discrimination is weakness.
That’s all the energy I have.