It would have been a powerful and positive statement if we all united and voiced our support in tearing up confederate flags from our community. It would have given everyone a sign of hope, inclusiveness, racial equality, and love.
However, we often divert from this message, so consider the following: Imagine that your local store is selling merchandise with a swastika. As a community member, how do you feel that this merchandise is being sold and displayed in your community?
Would it appropriate or acceptable to use a Nazi bandana/face mask during COVID-19?
Would you oppose or support tearing up these items?
As with the swastika, the Confederate flag is a potent symbol and display of hate, racism and white supremacy in Canada. We cannot erase history and what it symbolizes — but we can deem it as unacceptable in our community.
We can only do this if we properly acknowledge that it was unacceptable.
This means we need to tell our fellow community members when they are in the wrong, particularly if we care about them.
I have reviewed all correspondence from Allan Carter (including his letter, store Facebook page, interviews/podcasts, online comments), and I have not once found an apology.
While it is clear that he is demanding a formal apology from Mayor Toni Boot, Allan has not once stated “I apologize” or “I’m sorry” for displaying and selling Confederate flags, nor for the hurt it caused.
Allan has received anonymous complaints in the past for carrying confederate flags, but still decided to allow these items to be sold on his shelves. Allan states that he now regrets carrying this merchandise only because it “caused controversy in our town”. An appropriate answer would have been that it is racist, offensive, and unacceptable – notably in Summerland’s antiracism parade.
If Allan’s response (or lack thereof) is deemed sufficient by our community, we are opening doors to further racism and ignorance (from other community members) in our future.
We would progress by learning and discussing racism, discrimination, and additional issues people of colour face in our predominately white community. We would be less likely to steer away from these uncomfortable conversations and more likely to support public antiracism statements to create discussion and lead change.
And we, especially white people, would not only listen but realize that it’s our own problem to fix.
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