My Turn: We are better than this

By Christa Caceres | Pocono Record
Feb. 1, 2020

As we prepare to celebrate the countless contributions of African American men and women to our nation during Black History Month, we are often reminded that we are not far removed from the negative and unfortunate history our ancestors endured, pressed through and overcame. We are proud of the fact that the NAACP successfully fought to end grandfather clauses in 1915 in Guinn v. United States, ended school segregation through their Legal Defense Fund in 1954, helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, and helped to achieve voting rights for all in 1965. We built a great deal of this country by hand and are proud to have built a legacy of excellence that continues to pass through generations.

Despite this, we are often confronted with glimpses of this nation’s regrettable past by the display of Confederate flags. For some, it is a symbol of pride and a longing for years gone by. For others, it is a symbol of a war that was lost by those seeking to preserve the system of slavery and continued free labor at the hands of thousands of African men and women brought to this land without their consent. The bodies of my ancestors were tortured, and their family units destroyed by the selling of husbands and wives to separate owners. For us, this flag is a constant reminder of those who wished to continue to profit handsomely on unwilling black bodies and remain divided from the rest of the nation because of their fight for freedom.

It has been brought to our attention that there is a store located in the Pocono Square retail complex located at 117 Municipal Drive in Middle Smithfield Township. It is a retail complex frequented by consumers of all nationalities who shop the Flea Market on weekends, handle financial transactions at the PNC bank and some school buses and parents pass through the building on their way to drop children off on school days. It is extremely disturbing to think that anyone would find the flying of this flag acceptable in 2020, given all that this flag represents. It is unthinkable that a retail business would believe flying such a flag would result in an increase to their sales-or was that always the idea? Sadly, we have seen businesses in the past use controversial and hurtful opinions and beliefs to increase their profits with support from those who share their outdated and uninformed views.

I am of the full understanding that the tenant who leases space at this location — who shall not be named because I do not intend to help them sell one washcloth — has First Amendment rights afforded to them by our Constitution. I am also aware that there is no law in our Commonwealth that requires the removal of this flag, regardless of how insensitive it is to do so or how many people find it to symbolize bitterness, hatred and a disregard for the suffering of generations of black people. Most importantly, I am aware that I too have Constitutional rights and I will not use them to give them the spotlight they so desperately crave. I will not demand they take down the flag so they can run to a cable news outlet and encourage a “Go Fund Me” style account or help increase their profits. I will use my First Amendment rights to express my disappointment and disdain for such a disrespectful display and hope that we rise to the occasion and reject this act wholesale.

We as a community are better than this.

— Christa Caceres, President and Political Action Chair, NAACP Monroe County Chapter. Pocono Record ‘My Turn’ columns highlight notable voices and opinions from the Poconos and Pennsylvania. To submit your idea, e-mail letters@poconorecord.com for more information.