The move by NASCAR to ban the Confederate Flag is one of the most unexpected consequences of today’s efforts to eradicate the racial divide. While many suggest this battle flag represents heritage and independence; the fact is it was created for a rebellion in defense of slavery.

I have a number of friends, honest, hardworking people, who display the flag for different reasons including simple dissatisfaction with government. They will be disappointed in me. But the Civil War, its devastation, its incompatibility with our nation’s reason for being, was not a noble cause. Rather it sought the unimaginable, reducing other humans to the status of livestock.

The belief expressed by Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, in his “cornerstone” speech, held “that the negro is unequal to the white man”. That ugly opinion was not surrendered at Appomattox but was allowed to live for years after.

The southern voters chose to elect folks who would pass laws more aligned with Alexander Stephens than Thomas Jefferson.

In 1894 Virginia Democrats re-instated the anti-miscegenation law prohibiting the marriage of people of different races. The definition of a black person was any person who met the “one drop rule”, meaning any trace of black ancestry. This continued in Virginia until 1967 when the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.

Massive Resistance, the name for Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.’s. strategy to prevent Virginia public school integration, was initiated in 1957.

Virginia’s poll tax, established in 1876 and continuing until 1966, was meant to suppress Black turnout for elections. It not only charged to vote but required new voters to pay fees equal to the three previous years. Though the practice ended 54 years ago, the law remained in Virginia’s Acts of the Assembly until this very year.

In 2004, Staunton’s City Council undertook one of the largest investments ($19.4 million) in the city’s history to rebuild, but not rebrand, a hotel carrying the name of General “Stonewall” Jackson.

I pull these scabs as a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that racial inequities and the honoring of Confederate generals was the rule not the exception. Many of us remember those days and remember changing the laws did not change attitudes.

That people my age or so remain faithful to the old ways is not unexpected. We are products of our environment. But as we get older we are supposed to become a more adaptable, or I hope so.

It has been a long slog, but progress is being made. The protests today are more multi-racial and multi-generational than in the 50s and 60s. The communities and places where overt racism is acceptable are becoming fewer and fewer. Which is why the NASCAR ban on the Confederate flag may be incredibly helpful.

Most of us want to fit in, to be part of something larger. NASCAR events were one of the few places where the Confederate colors could be openly and favorably displayed. It was nearly unique considering similar displays would likely be discouraged or at least frowned upon in equally grand fan gatherings.

It is because of stock car racing’s lineage and customer profiles that makes the banning of the flag so striking. This is not an empty gesture as it might be in other sports. Banning the Confederate Flag at NBA games or even NFL games would barely raise an eyebrow. This decision could have significant financial implications more so than say kneeling or wearing shirts saying “Black Lives Matter.”

But even the most ardent NASCAR fan is unmoved by the thoughts and opinions of the suits running the business. They attach to the drivers, the car models, the racing teams. Which makes the support given to Bubba Wallace from his fellow drivers so important.

Their solidarity and concern for a fellow driver sent a message loud and clear that they were part of a new breed. And perhaps not trapped in the thinking of yesteryear.

There may never be a big moment when we just all agree that something needs to be fixed. That we need to get our hearts right before we can get our relationships right.

There may never be a big moment when we just all agree that something needs to be fixed. That we need to get our hearts right before we can get our relationships right. But as far as big moments go, the Bubba Wallace group hug is right up there.

If you were not moved by all those guys and gals pushing the King’s No. 43 to the front of the pack for a Black driver, I am sorry for you. The “good ‘ol boys” have become “a few good men.”

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity, Amen.

Tracy Pyles, a former chairman and member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors who lives in Augusta County, is a columnist for The News Virginian. His column is published Saturdays.

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