I spent most of my life living in the northeast, but at the age of 21, I had an opportunity to move to Nashville, Tennessee. It was a life-changing decision that I was willing to take, but I had some hesitancy. My hesitancy revolved around the stereotype of Southerners being racists and one of the symbols of their racism was their brandishing of the Confederate flag. Nevertheless, I took the plunge and made the decision to uproot my life and see what this new place had to offer me.
My experience living there was not what I expected. I had exaggerated this negative imagery of the South and prevalence of racism. Every person who I met, including white people, was extremely nice and at times went out of their way to help me. It took getting used to how polite the average person is compared to the cold nature of people from the northeast. I can’t tell you how many times someone started talking to me while waiting in line for a cashier and even allowing me to go ahead of them because I had fewer items than them.
All of my assumptions were being debunked on a daily basis to the point of having pure comfort living there. I started to give the people I came in contact with the benefit of the doubt rather than doubting their intentions. Once the veil was lifted, I started talking to them about their perspective as Southerners and even the stereotypes placed upon them. One of the topics I brought up was the Confederate flag and what their perspective was about it.
The simplest way of putting it is that they see it as a symbol of ‘Southern Pride’ and nothing more. Despite the history of the Civil War, they see it as one of the few symbols that represents their region of the country. I’ve asked this question to multiple Southerners and they all say the same thing. I realized I was holding my assumptions of what other people believed over their actual perspective. In many ways, I was a bigot to their perspective until I was put in a position to live amongst them.
Before moving there, you couldn’t tell me it wasn’t a hateful symbol. Being black and a ‘Yankee’, it was embedded in me to see it in that way and to chastise anyone that dared to brandish it, much like how we view anyone that embraces the swastika. Even worse, I was socially trained to ignore & hate their perspective.
Is it possible that someone who lives in South uses this flag as a way to intimidate black people? Sure, it’s possible. However, to place this singular perspective on an entire region is unfair. Being open to hearing other people’s perspectives allowed for me to understand that this flag controversy is not as simple as what was initially advertised.
We are told to fight against bigotry of all kinds, like the bigotry of race, sexual orientation and religion but there is one form of bigotry that is permissible; the bigotry of perspective. It is perfectly fine to disregard someone’s perspective because it does not fit your narrative. There aren’t any non-profit organizations fighting for perspectives to be heard, and this leaves perspectives to be abused and lambasted simply for being different.
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Because some perspectives look different from what we are used to, we treat them like the other and we are scared to embrace them. This behavior triggers me to ask pertinent questions: why are we afraid to embrace different perspectives? Why are we afraid to see the world through a slightly different lens? Lastly, who benefits from us not understanding each other?
I believe many of us are afraid to hear different perspectives because it could expose how wrong we are. When you lack humility, being wrong feels assaulting and it leaves behind a bruised ego. Some of us even setup our entire identity based on certain ideas and hearing a countering perspective theoretically threatens our existence. When this is the case, becoming a perspective bigot feels necessary to protect who you are.
As a society, we are getting better at accepting people but our flaw has been an accepting of people without listening to their perspective. It does not mean you have to agree with them, it just means that you should hear people out with good faith.
Sometimes you have to admit when you’re wrong in order to move in the right direction in life. Living in Nashville humbled me in a multitude of ways, and it is still my favorite place that I’ve ever lived in. If I stayed a perspective bigot, I would have shielded myself from seeing how beautiful the people are there. I would have been no different than the racist that sees a black person like myself as ‘the other’ and misses out on my potential greatness.
Founder and Editor of Wrong Speak
Former Liberal, present day free thinker. Believer of equality of thought, free speech and open conversations. Proud American that prefers to be judged by character over skin.