This is the letter I placed on a man’s doorstep in Kelowna, after I passed by his house four weeks ago and saw a confederate flag glowing in his window (it was after dark). You can watch a video of it and how I initially responded on my facebook account, or by clicking here. It’s a good thing then that a few friends let me know that I should’ve reached out to him instead of complaining about it on facebook.
July 1, 2020
To the pale bearded man who lives here:
You and I have actually spoken before. Four weeks ago, I took photos of your condo’s façade with the confederate flag, one evening after sunset. I didn’t see you sitting on your porch. But you noticed me. You said “Hey! What are you doing?” I said, “taking photos of you.” You said, “you can’t take photos of my face!” And then you got up and went inside.
When I got home that night, I uploaded the video of your window onto Facebook (without your address visible). I wrote that you put up the confederate flag because you were racist and malevolent, that your neighbours were ethically lousy for thinking that the flag was a “to each their own” subject, and that people ought to call out racism whenever they see it. I finished by writing that while we live in a free society with free speech (thank God), we also need to criticize and shame those with harmful ideas. It’s either that or censorship.
This is ironic to me. For the past four years as a university student, I’ve preached that tolerance and more speech are always better than intolerance, violence and censorship. My post about you and your confederate flag was thus … hypocritical and mob-like. It was not the right thing to do.
But this letter is.
A couple friends of mine pointed out that I didn’t truly know whether you were hateful or not. Maybe you’re from Georgia and sympathize with the independent spirit of the Confederacy. One of the reasons I hope to hear a response from you is to figure this out: what motivated you to put up and keep up that confederate flag?
Regardless, here are four reasons for why you should take it down.
For one, it’s bad for your health! People with Vitamin D deficiencies die more easily from COVID-19.[i] When UV rays from sunlight touch your skin, your body creates Vitamin D. A flag prevents sunlight from streaming into the room which it covers. The room your flag covers is probably one you spend plenty of time in – like a kitchen. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen too. You’re not making as much Vitamin D as you could be. Therefore, keeping up the flag means you’re more likely to die from COVID-19.
Two, there are so many better countries to be proud of than the Confederate States of America. The Confederates lost the only war they ever waged. They were poor fighters! You could be putting up the American flag, or China’s flag, or even Ethiopia’s flag. All three of those countries had/have formidable men and armies which don’t lose all their wars.
Three, there are anti-racism protests in the US and globally. Covering your window with the flag makes your house look ominous and menacing, especially at night when your lights are on, making the flag glow in the dark. People passing by on the street will consider you, as I did, to be racist. It’s possible that politically enraged people, like some members of Antifa, will gleefully throw a big fat rock at your window, shattering it as punishment for putting up the flag. And keeping it up at this current time strongly suggests that not only do you disagree with the protests, you also despise the black people fighting for equality and justice.
Fourth, the flag made me worried for my life and well-being. I had no idea what moral character you have, what you’re willing to do, whether you had a shotgun behind your door, or if you’d be willing to bludgeon to death a black person if you had the chance. Your neighbours said that you “keep to yourself,” which is why I’m taking the chance and sharing my real name and email with you.
It’s for these four reasons that you should please consider:
- Taking down the flag completely,
- Replacing it with the Canadian flag I gave you,
- Placing it somewhere in your house less public,
- All of the above
In a book defending free speech called Hate, the author Nadine Strossen talks about what truly works to combat hate.[ii] One of those things is humour. Unfortunately, I’m no comedian. My reasons above likely did not persuade you to take down the flag.
So, if you’re willing, I’d like to take you out for coffee. I want to know your reasons for putting up the confederate flag in your window, and your response to my four reasons above. If I cannot persuade you, I can at least try to understand what the Confederate flag means to you and whether you think displaying it is the right thing to do.
We can chat at the Tim Horton’s near your house, one-to-one, and it’ll be on me (which is why I’ve left you the gift card). Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to do so, and we’ll set up a time.
But if you don’t want to come chat, then you should at least watch Andrew Schulz’s 5-minute comedy special on the subject. [iii] It’s pretty damn good.
Happy Canada Day, and all the best.
[i] “Vitamin D Affects Covid-19 Mortality.” Pharmaceutical Technology. Last modified June 11, 2020. https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/comment/vitamin-d-covid-19/.
[ii] Strossen, Nadine. Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
[iii] Schulz, Andrew. “Confederate Flag & Racist Statues, What To Do.” Andrew Schulz. Last modified June 13, 2020. https://youtu.be/3LMRCX1iXng.