Confederate flags & cheesesteaks: You can be racist too, Philly

Maria Pouchnikova

Philadelphians think their bigotry doesn’t stink.

As a Texas transplant, I’m here to confirm that it does.

After the horrific national tragedy that is Charleston, it seems as though Philadelphia and its neighboring East Coast cities have decided to raise their liberal noses up at the conservative South for their controversial heirlooms.

Their recent target– the Confederate flag.

As a black man whose family origins are based in both the “Land of Lincoln” (Illinois) and the “Deep South” (Arkansas and Texas), I have had my own personal experiences with what has become a national symbol of hatred.

Once upon a time, I was the president of my high school’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. I acted as a judge at dairy cow competitions (surprise) and competed in several contests while traveling to various Texas livestock shows and rodeos.

In some of the small rural counties I visited, seeing the Confederate flag placed on bumper stickers and flag poles felt eerie. But as I familiarized myself with the townspeople, they weren’t as threatening as I assumed.

For them, that was the way they were raised. Consequently, it would be all they knew.

When I moved to Philly in 2010, I felt a similar eeriness when walking around South Street after a night of clubbing and late socializing. This time, it wasn’t Confederate flags that flew, but the hands of uniformed white cops that unreasonably patted and searched me down in public because I was in a “questionable area” at an “unusual” time.

If being black while on South Street after 1 “suspicious,” then perhaps the racist implications of this experience are more in line with the ignorance embodied in the very infamous flag whites are now finally enraged about.

Hypocrisy would rear its ugly head this week over the recent uproar after the famous Geno’s Steaks removed a Confederate flag decal that was on a motorcycle made for the late owner, Joey Vento. It was located across the street from the shop.

Local resident Phil Dahl told the media that he made the complaint given the current national news associated with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham calling on South Carolina to remove the flag from its statehouse.

But where was the outrage before?

With all candor, it’s easier to complain about what a godforsaken Southern flag is doing in Philly rather than address the wickedness behind it that clouds this nation overall.

Where are the local protests demanding that we take down the Christopher Columbus Monument at Penn’s Landing – a symbol of ruthless cultural genocide and supremacy? It’s so easy for Philadelphians to treat the South like it’s an embarrassing reminder of our nation’s racist past when we ignore the current issues going on in our own backyard.

Philly is now just beginning to see the benefits of what decriminalizing marijuana has had on the disproportionate arrest rate of blacks in this city.

Let’s not throw stones at Confederate flags while we’re still symbolically living under a cracked Liberty Bell of misjudgment and bias.

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