It struck me this morning, listening to music and browsing a Facebook feed full of stories about the church burnings in the south (presumably the American White Christian ISIS's --aka KKK-- response to the outcry over the Confederate flag controversy), that it's really amazing that African Americans have been able to accomplish ANYTHING in this country since the Civil War, given the (until recently) institutional racism that was in place in most of the country, and is still (apparently, stubbornly) in place in many regions, and the individual racism that is still widespread.
Four of my favorite musicians of the last 100 years -- Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Thelonious Monk, and Louis Armstrong-- all were black. (Strayhorn, it should be noted, was also gay.) How they managed to achieve the level of greatness they attained, given the personal and cultural bullshit that they probably (definitely) had to deal with in the 30s 40s 50s and 60s, is amazing to me, and a testament to how great they were as artists and as human beings.
And what about those people who didn't (don't) have the support system and visibility and talent and fortitude that those four men had? The lost MILLIONS of people who have been ground down by an unfair system and unfair individuals.
It's good that we're having the discussion (I THINK it's a discussion and not a shouting match) about all of this. It's about (past) time that the Confederate flag is seen for what it really is to so many people: a symbol of a group of people who fought to enslave another group of people based solely on race.
But take it from one who has overcome his own racism, sexism, and homophobia. These are stubborn tendencies to rid yourself of, much less a society in which they're entrenched and ingrained, and I speak as someone who saw these learned tendencies for what they were --ugly, incorrect, cruel ways of viewing the world and my place in it. They're even harder to eradicate in someone who thinks that a Confederate flag is anything less than hate speech.
We have to keep pushing forward and do better. Period. We must.