OKC Has to Decide Where its Pride Lies


It was a depressing site in downtown OKC on Wednesday night as President Barack Obama was welcomed to our state’s capital by our nation’s most prolific symbol of hate. Protesters gathered on the streets surrounding the President’s hotel to wave the Confederate Flag, an object causing great debate over the past few weeks, at the incoming presidential motorcade.

The imagery alone does not resonate well within American minds. But it’s an image that no Oklahoman should take pride in, for many reasons, one of which happens to be the lack of respect it shows our city’s most admired basketball stars.

What does the Confederate flag have to do with Oklahoma City basketball? In this case, everything. It’s all relative.

More from Thunder News

It’s a heartbreaking coincidence that the Confederate flag waving happened right outside the Cox Convention Center (home to the Oklahoma City Blue), just a few steps away from the Chesapeake Energy Arena (home to the Oklahoma City Thunder). The world can likely find the exact same Confederate flag waving people in OKC rooting for Kevin Durant on any given game night. The hypocritical ignorance is bewildering and beyond comprehension.

The Confederate Flag is nothing to be proud of, as it represents something akin to a Swastika symbolizing Nazi Germany.

We’re talking about a flag that was used as definitive representation by eleven states that seceded from the United States in the most treasonous way possible; because they (the Confederate states) did not support the grand idea that all human beings were created equally. Within the outline of those states, African-Americans were viewed, at best, as second-class citizens or subhuman at worst. And that mindset continued to carry on long after the Confederacy lost the war.

The Civil War ended in 1865, yet the Civil Rights Movement went without real traction until the 1950s. The movement contained its share of both wins and losses for the American people. From Brown vs. The Board of Education (1954) to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (1963); from the Civil Rights Act (1964) to Selma (1965); from the Voting Rights Act (1965) to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (1968)…103 years after our nation’s Civil War ended.

The battle wounds for African-Americans in this country are understandably deep, but how do we ever expect the wounds to heal when we as a society continue to cover them up with band-aids rather than opting to provide real treatment?

It’s 2015 – 150 years post-Civil War – and a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof recently decided to enter an African-American church with the objective to shoot and kill as many people as possible. Roof’s mission ended with nine innocent lives lost. It has since been revealed that Roof subscribed to the idea of being a white supremacist; confederacy memorabilia were articles that he took great pride in, ultimately because of the symbolism behind the flag. Once this fact caught whirlwind attention, the battle of “Heritage vs. Hate” picked up massive momentum, which led to the Confederate flag coming down permanently at South Carolina’s state capital. However, the debate lives on.

But, stunningly enough, the debate shouldn’t live on in Oklahoma. It should have never taken its first breath of fresh air here. The Civil War occurred between 1861 and 1865. The eleven states that seceded from the United States of America? Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Oklahoma did not secede from the union because Oklahoma wasn’t even a state yet, nor did it become one until 1907 – 42 years after the War had already ended. So, in terms of statehood (not Indian Territory), historically speaking, the State of Oklahoma doesn’t have a foot to stand on here or even a legitimate place in the “Heritage vs. Hate” debate.

And this takes me back to Oklahoma City, where a handful of Confederate Flags were just found waving near the Thunder’s home court. While these particular flags waved without outnumbering the rest of the crowd, the rest of the crowd was overwhelmed by one singular symbol.

One symbol which dominates over all others.

It doesn’t matter whether one or 100 Confederate flags wave, because it only takes one to control the conversation, rip off the band-aids, and open old wounds.

More from Thunderous Intentions

Eight out of the 15 players on the Thunder roster are African-American, including the beloved Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. We’re talking about a team that fans support faithfully at all times. OKC residents pack out the arena for every single home game. The loyalty fans have for the OKC Thunder goes deep.

May 25, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook waves to fans as he walks back to the locker room after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in game three of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

But just how deep does that loyalty go when one decides to dig a little deeper?

Durant will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, while Westbrook will enter free agency in 2017.  OKC’s top two. The two guys that Oklahoma City residents love and desperately want to keep, and yet some individuals deem it appropriate to support the Confederate flag while supporting these athletes?

That just doesn’t sound right.

Whether the waving occurs a few feet away from the home court or at your own home while you’re watching the game; whether its directed at the presidential motorcade or not, I challenge you to dig a little deeper. Search within. Reflect.

It’s not enough to support a man battling for your city to secure the eighth seed, especially if you continue to defend the ultimate symbol of his racial struggle.

It’s unacceptable to cheer on the MVP while refusing compassion and empathy for the tragic history.

Live and learn is how the saying goes, but when exactly will we learn?

When will we as a society stop allowing troublesome history to repeat itself? The question lives on.

OKC has to decide where its pride lies. Choose wisely.