Sure, it was just a flag, but is there something important we can all take away from this?
A recent social media post showed the candid moment when a general contractor arrived at the Brown household in a Georgia neighborhood. What the Browns did not expect was the extra-large-sized Confederate flag flying from the back of the worker’s black SUV bumper as he backed up the driveway.
The African American couple, Zeke and Allison Brown, interpreted that particular American flag as many do: as endorsing a time and place in America’s history when racism, slavery, and segregation were widely accepted.
A black couple in Georgia said they were in “disbelief” when a man responding to their Facebook post looking for someone to repair the brakes on a golf cart pulled up in a truck carrying large Confederate flag. https://t.co/8pe8xkhzuA
— ABC News (@ABC) July 5, 2019
Whether the contractor meant it or not, the Browns took offense by it.
Now, it’s a free country and all—that means freedom to express ourselves, including to wave any sort of flags that we choose. It also means that we are free to speak and to vote.
On that day, Allison chose to exercise the latter two of these: to speak words with the young man, and to vote with her dollar.
The video, recorded by Facebook user Ryan Spann, captured the full drama of the moment when she and her husband walked out onto the front steps of their house and confronted the man who was supposed to do some work for them.
“Hi, you know what, I do apologize, I know you’ve come from a very long way but, we’re going to use someone else,” Allison said in a firm, measured tone.
Staring blankly at the couple in front of their house, the young man seemed somewhat surprised.
“She’s upset with the flag,” Zeke explained.
“No I’m beyond upset with the flag,” she added.
The young man is heard offering to “take it down,” but the Browns’ decision stood.
“No, you don’t need to take it down,” Allison replied. “You continue to believe what you need to believe sir, but no, I cannot pay you for your service. Thank you. Have a good day.”
And with that, the worker got back in the vehicle and drove off. A short while later, Zeke received a text from him, pleading his innocence (and ignorance).
“I didn’t know the flag affended [sic] y’all,” he wrote.
Zeke responded, but there was to be no backtracking on their decision.
After the disagreeable encounter, Spann posted the video online, and it quickly garnered thousands of views and responses. Many viewers agreed with Allison’s decision and expressed admiration for how she dealt with it so evenhandedly.
— CBS46 (@cbs46) July 4, 2019
Before long, the media had reached out to the Browns to interview them. They also reached out to the contractor but did not get a response.
“As a black woman there is this negative connotation with the angry black woman. I can be stern and calm and get my point across,” Allison told CBS46.
“I can’t change my color, he can’t change the fact that he brought that flag to my house, but I can and will control where my dollar goes and my dollar will not go to anyone who represents such hate.”
Zeke said that he chose to turn the encounter into a teachable moment by texting back to him about why they had been so offended and what the Confederate flag signified to them as African Americans.
Zeke had written:
Yes, it is extremely offensive to anyone of Color. I understand it is part of American History but that flag stood for a time in history where people such as myself had a very bad way of life. The few minutes I got to speak with you, I saw nothing that represents that flag. I saw a very respectful young man that works very hard to make his way. I totally respect that because that’s exactly what I do. Michael, I hope this small interaction causes you to do a little research on how several Americans feel about the confederacy. I know it’s part of history, so is Nazi Germany. Germans have made it well known that flag is absolutely unacceptable.
Take Care Young Man,
It was a pleasure meeting you
Sure, it’s a free country where we can express our thoughts and ideas freely. You can wave whatever flag around you want, but nobody has to hire you, either. It’s the marketplace of ideas where we discover the value of things, what we say and do—as long as we can do so peacefully and lawfully. What’s valuable is kept; what’s junk is tossed out.
That is how we learn how to get along, and that lesson is the most important lesson of all.