Straight Talk Advice

Rainbow flag up, Confederate flag down

Jun 30, 2015

Championing equal rights is patriotism of youth

Dear Straight Talk: My "news junkie" grandmother from Georgia is staying with us. She constantly puts me and my generation down saying we're not patriotic and we don’t care about anything. But I think I'm more patriotic than she is because she thinks the South should keep flying the Confederate flag! Her racist and anti-gay stance is unpatriotic and harmful to our country. My mom says to keep my mouth shut. I would like my grandmother to read what my generation thinks being patriotic is. Could the panel address this? —17, Eugene, Oregon

Lisa 23, Eugene, Oregon Ask me a question

America was founded by intellectuals who advocated for cynicism — after all, they questioned British rule! They included the First Amendment so citizens could freely question government and keep it true. Our grandparents were nursed on wartime propaganda that America was the epitome of democracy and “the best.” Though many of them freely hate on the federal government, they call us unpatriotic and ungrateful when we dare question America. Patriotism is much more than waving the American flag and insisting we're the best. I have hope our generation will use new technologies for large-scale cultural inquiries around racism, sexism and homophobia. True patriots don't blindly glorify America. They strive to bring it closer to its ideals.

Justin 18, Brentwood, California Ask me a question

Standing up for women used to be considered unpatriotic; now it's very patriotic. Many elders are stuck in their bubble. To me, patriotism is being proud of America's accomplishments, leadership, and that all races, genders and sexualities can live and thrive here.

Icis 17, Lehigh Acres, Florida Ask me a question

Patriotism shouldn’t be awarded to the most political noise, but to the most assistance given. Patriotism is love, support and defense of one's country and all its citizens. My generation leads in gay marriage acceptance compared to elder generations and is rejecting smoking — both make our country better. To be slandered as apathetic and unpatriotic is absurd.
 

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

As a military brat, my patriotism is “army strong.” I didn't even understand “race” until first grade when someone called me a “n*** lover” because my best friend was black. It's incredible that some people can only accept straight white people. That the Bible is used as justification against gays is insulting. The cited verses refer more to adultery than homosexuality. Regardless, shouldn't Christ's dying for our sins absolve gays, like for pork eaters or men selling their daughters to pay off a car loan? Using the Bible as a tool of hate is unchristian.

Molly 23, Oakland, California Ask me a question

Speaking as a white woman in a relationship with a black man, your mom is normalizing racism by silencing you. When people who disagree with racism remain silent, you validate the racism. Many racists believe that silent people secretly agree with them. We can't give people a pass because they're from a different time. The elderly are in THIS time. The Confederate flag is a racist symbol and absolutely inappropriate in government settings.

Elle 19, Boca Raton, Florida Ask me a question

I agree with your grandmother that my generation isn't very patriotic. Do you place your hand on your heart during the National Anthem? Say the Pledge of Allegiance? Thank troops and veterans? There's only one race, the human race and patriotism looks different to different people. Comparison just makes us bitter. Focus instead on what you can do to serve. Regarding the Confederate flag, not everyone who fought for the south owned slaves. It's sad that racism is projected into this symbol. As a nation, we're good at talking about ending racism, but we need more than uproars to change.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

Your grandma was raised when racial prejudice was normal. Some people are so conflict oriented it's hardly worth dealing with them. If an adult conversation is possible, explain your beliefs politely and listen to hers politely. If she attacks your character, stop the conversation.

Nick 18, Corte Madera, California Ask me a question

Patriotism means understanding that opinions will differ in America's melting pot of multiple cultures, colors and religions. During high school, some sophomores put Confederate flags on their cars, lamely claiming “southern pride” even as they grew up in wealthy Marin County. There was a huge student backlash because the flag represents slavery and hatred for blacks. While changing older people is difficult, it's worth trying.

Dear 17: I hope this helps. Your generation is ushering in the most gay-friendly, colorblind society yet. Standing up for equal rights is indeed patriotic. With the Rainbow flag going up and the Confederate Flag coming down, you are on the right side of history. Those on the wrong side, like Grandmother, are bound to be crabby so don't gloat. Also, check your ageism. This glaring prejudice is the dippiest as it threatens oneself. 

Editor's Note: What a week for equal rights! You probably know the news. On June 26, the Supreme Court ended the controversy: Gay couples who want to get married are now free to do so in any state. Apparently they weren't a threat to the straight married couples after all. I'm glad Church and State finally decided to end their strange marriage on this issue.

On June 17, just days before this historic decision, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old home-grown terrorist and white supremist from South Carolina, calmly killed nine black churchgoers in cold blood, one of whom was Clementa C. Pinckney, the senior pastor and a South Carolina Senator. Roof said he wanted to start a race war and the Confederate flag was his symbol. Over the next few days, the Confederate flags came down from government buildings across the South and I doubt they'll fly again in a state-sanctioned capacity. While I empathize with those who feel the flag represents Southern heritage, not necessarily racism, the war of secession was predominantly an argument over the right to own slaves. The flag was, is, and always will be imbued with that. Considering that the Civil War ended in 1865, this move is about 150 years overdue.

Kudos to all young patriots who use their First Amendment rights to speak out and take a stand in support of one of the top defining principles of the Declaration of Independence: freedom and equal rights for everyone, regardless of race or sexual orientation. —Lauren

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  1. By Sherry, age 16, from Elk Grove, California on 06/30/2015

    I agree with those who say that supporting equal rights for all is the most patriotic stance that you can have.  I’m straight, but I’m thrilled with the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.  I have a close friend ever since first grade who came out of the closet and let me know that she was gay last year.  It made no difference to me and had no affect on our friendship.  We continue to have sleepovers as we always have, and I’m just as comfortable undressing in front of her as I always have been, just as comfortable as I am with my straight friends and even my own sister who I share a room with.  My sister also has no problem with her being gay and having sleepovers in our room and undressing with her in the room.  Why should it be a problem when we’re still all girls?  However, some mean spirited girls started the rumor that I’m gay because she and I remain close friends and even try to say that we have sex with each other, which is an absolute lie, and how could they possibly know what we were doing in the bedroom and why should they even care?  My true friends don’t believe this, so I don’t worry about what the others say.

    I’m also glad to see that the Confederate flag is now being taken down in the places that were still flying it.  However, I find it sad that it continued so long and is only being taken down because politicians are under political pressure.  I feel very lucky that my sister and I were raised by parents who taught us to treat everyone equally be they black, white, gay, straight, or whatever.

    I also don’t understand those who justify prejudice and discrimination by using the Bible.  I am a Christian and have read the Gospels and everything that Jesus is purported to have said.  Not once did he condemn gays or even mention them.  What he did preach was love and forgiveness for EVERYONE.  He did not make an exception for gays.  In fact, since he spent most of his time living and traveling with 12 men and was never married, he probably would have been accused of being gay by those who are so paranoid about such things.  I’m not saying that he was, but using the logic of the anti-gays he probably would have been accused of it.

    Sherry

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  2. By Darby, age 16, from Loma Linda, CA on 07/01/2015

    Our stepfather is prejudiced against both African Americans and gays, but thinks he’s the greatest patriot in the world because he served 2 years in the Army.  He’s furious that they now allow “faggots”  (his term, not mine) in the military.  He also considers himself a great Christian because he goes to church every Sunday.  My sister and I do not see him as either a patriot or a Christian because his attitudes go against both what our county and Christianity are all about.  The worst part of this is that my sister is gay unbeknownst to him and must stay “in the closet.”  She’s confided in me, but must keep it a secret from him and our mom because of this.  As many others who have written to Straight talk have said, sharing a room, undressing, and nudity are not any problem whatsoever for me just because my sister happens to be gay.  I just think it’s sad that she must keep this a secret despite all the gains that are being made for equality for gays, including last week’s decision on gay marriage!  Yea!!!

    Darby

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  3. By Angie, age 17, from Westminster, CA on 07/02/2015

    In our case it’s our stepfather’s father (I refuse to call him my grandfather) who is the racist and homophobic.  He also thinks he’s a great patriot due to his military service.  His definition of patriotism is anyone who agrees with him, including his racist and homophobic beliefs.  Fortunately, our stepfather does not share his beliefs.  However, he says that we still must respect his father and we are required to keep our mouths shut when he goes on and on with his racist and anti-gay rants.  Our stepfather says that we have to understand that his father grew up in Mississippi at a time when racism was the norm and gays were not accepted anywhere, so we need to give him understanding.  He’s also in his 80’s and not in good health and is not going to change, so our stepfather says we just have to respect him during the time he has left. 

    Even so, it is hard to listen to him and remain silent.  My sister is gay and we have to keep this a secret from him.  Our mom and stepfather have no problem with my sister’s being gay, and I certainly do not have a problem.  In fact, we are closer and get along better sharing a room than many sisters I know who are both straight.  As Darby and many others have written in Straight Talk, I am totally comfortable with undressing and nudity in front her.  Why shouldn’t I be?  We’re still sisters and have the same bodies.  I have a really hard time understanding why many people seem to think this is a major issue, when it is nothing. 

    Despite our stepfather’s father’s background, age, and health, I still find it unfair that we have to listen to him and say nothing, especially my sister.  We’re going to be seeing him 4th of July weekend and I just know that he’s going to be ranting about the “idiot” Supreme Court and it’s gay marriage decision (which we’re thrilled about).  However, we’ve been ordered to keep silent.

    Angie

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    1. By Lucy, age 16, from Carmichael, California on 07/03/2015

      The way my sister and I have learned to deal with this is “love the person, hate his views.”  Our grandfather is very similar to your stepfather’s father.  However, he has also always been a very loving grandfather to my brother, sister, and me.  We find his views on minorities and gays very offensive, but we still love him as he has always been very kind and caring toward us.  My sister and I are both straight, but I have a long time close friend who happens to be gay so I find his anti-gay slurs to be very offensive.  She’s continued to have sleepovers in our room since she came out and it has been no problem whatsoever for my sister and me.  Our parents are also cool with her. We’ve never had a problem with undressing and nudity with each other or other girls, and we don’t make an exception for her just because she happens to be gay, and she’s never given us any reason to feel uncomfortable when she sees us nude.  It therefore is very hard to grit my teeth and keep my mouth shut when our grandfather makes anti-gay slurs.  However, my grandfather isn’t going to change at his age, so I’ve learned to deal with it.

      Loving our grandfather and hating his views works for us.  It may not work for you, as it doesn’t sound like your stepfather’s father has been like a loving grandfather to you, but you might want to give it a try as it might make things easier for you.

      Lucy

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      1. By Melissa, age 42, from Sylvania, Ohio on 07/04/2015

        Unfortunately, my father-in-law who grew up in the South when racism was rampant is also like this.  Fortunately, my husband is not like this even though he was brought up in a racist home.  I have a hard time explaining to my teenagers why he makes racial and antigay slurs when we have always taught them to never use such terms, and also why they should love and respect their grandfather despite his views.  “Love the person, but hate his views” makes sense, but I think it is easier said than done.  My older daughter has a friend who came out as gay.  At first I had some concerns about her continuing to have sleepovers in the room my daughter shares with her younger sister, and I was especially concerned about my younger daughter sleeping in the same room with her and undressing in front of her.  However, neither of the girls were the least bit concerned so I decided to allow it, but closely monitor the situation.  As it turned out, it was nothing to worry about.  However, when my father-in-law learned that a “dike” to use his word was sharing a room with his granddaughters, he was furious and said we “must be crazy” to allow this. 

        Melissa

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        1. By Sharon, age 40, from Fontana, CA on 07/04/2015

          I have what I think is an even more difficult thing to explain.  My teenage son hears African American kids at school call each other the “N” word and laugh about it.  We have always taught him NEVER to use racial slurs, and especially this word.  He asks us why they can use it with each other and even laugh about it?  I do not have an answer, but I still tell him never to use such words. 

          Does anyone have an answer to this?

          Sharon

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          1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 07/08/2015

            Sharon—I’d hoped one of our readers would’ve answered this one, but I’m happy to give it a shot.  I understand it as a form of rebellion and self-protection both. It’s reframing the diss and turning it into a powerful word that bonds and adds confidence to the formerly subjugated. Women have done this with the word bitch. And slut to a lesser degree. When you can call yourself a word that used to cause subjugation and be okay with that, there’s a freedom there. It’s saying this word can no longer hurt me. It’s saying those that used to call me this can’t hurt me with this word any longer.

            It is also totally UNCOOL for anyone outside the “club” to use the word. A woman and her friends can call themselves sluts or bitches, but nobody else can… or if they do, it’s super uncool. Same with the n-word. You’re very smart to teach your kids never to use it. It’s derogatory and inappropriate…. yet I understand the African American use of it among themselves.

            That said, it’s doubtful whether it helps blacks very much, and some blacks are very much against its use even by blacks.  In the same way, women calling themselves bitches and sluts are arguably not advancing their cause and the words are a questionable path to self-esteem. There are many women just as bitchy or slutty who think too highly of themselves to ever call themselves that.  Nonetheless, I do understand the impulse to do it and do not stand in judgement.

            Hope this answer helps and I’m interested in others’ thoughts.—Lauren

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