This excerpt from a book titled "The Mind Of the South" by Tracy Thompson (hint: the thesis of the book is that the South has no mind) recently passed through my Facebook timeline. The idea is that the South "still lies" about the Civil War, denying the War was about slavery, and playing up the states' rights angle. She tells this tale as an example of how things work in the Dear Ol' Southland:
In the course of our conversation, Yacine Kout mentioned something else—an incident that had happened the previous spring at Eastern Randolph High School just outside Asheboro. On Cinco de Mayo, the annual celebration of Mexico’s defeat of French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, a lot of Hispanic students brought Mexican flags to school. The next day, Kout said, white students brought Confederate flags to school as a message: This is our heritage.
Now, first I have to say that, if you Google "East Randolph High School Cinco De Mayo" or some other combination, the only results you get are the above excerpt and commentary thereon. I can't find anything about this supposed racist incident independent of Tracy Thompson's tendentious tract.
Second, memo to prideful southern high school students: here in Amurrica, we got this here thing called the "American Flag" AKA the "Stars & Stripes." It looks like this:
Try waving that next time, guys. That's what kids do here in California in response to displays of the Mexican flag.
Third, don't want to hurt any feelings, but if you're going to choose "Southern Heritage" versus "Mexican Heritage" (I know this is one of those "would you rather be blind or deaf?" kind of questions), wouldn't Southern heritage be the better choice? The Confederates, after all, considered themselves Americans. I don't know what message Mexican kids are trying to send by waving around the "Eagle & Snake," but it doesn't strike me as being "pro-American."
Whatever southern heritage meant 50 or 100 or 150 years ago, today - ca. 2013 - it's a combination of regional pride, bread pudding, and cussedness. It's about admiring the gallantry and bravery of the doomed southern armies who fought to the end for a cause that everyone now agrees was an awful one. One of history's ambiguous after-effects is the grudging admiration we can have for history's losers - I'm thinking of Napoleon's Grand Armee' or the Japanese in the Pacific War - who, whatever you might say, fought like hell, even if for the wrong reasons.
If southern heritage means high school students in 2013 are going to saddled with the full panoply of southern sins, then the same should apply to the yokels displaying the Mexican flag. There's the massacre and enslavement of the Aztecs; a feudal agrarian system that keeps Mexican peasants in peonage to this day; a third world political system that overlays a corrupt crony capitalist oligarchy onto a huddled mass of poor kept in the thrall of pseudo-socialist slogans; and so on. The Mexican War with the US ended with Santa Ana and his cronies taking bribes in exchange for signing away the American Southwest. If southern heritage is problematic, so is Mexican.
Then there's Mexico's frankly bizarre approach to race relations, as this graphic illustrates:
Wow! Where's a Mexican flag for me to wave?
Call me old fashioned, but Confederate history is part of American history. Mexican history? It's about as important to America as Cuban or Canadian history. One clearly outranks the other.
]I'm not going to go waving the Stars & Bars, but I won't begrudge someone else doing so; so long as they behave themselves. But the kids waving Mexican flags are just as obnoxious as any modern day neo-Confederate.