Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kid Rock Accepts NAACP Award Amid Protest Over Use of Confederate Flag

As the majority of the country spontaneously cheered news of Osama Bin Laden's death, musician/rapper Kid Rock enthusiastically accepted the Great Expectations Award at the NAACP's 56th annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner. According to an official statement, the Detroit branch of the African-American civil rights organization decided to honor Rock for "lift[ing] up the great expectations of many around our nation concerning the future of the City of Detroit." The event attracted over 10,000 guests and raised more than $1 million.

Some criticized the choice of honoree, citing Rock's prominent display of the Confederate flag in stage shows and videos. Earlier in the afternoon, about 50 protestors marched outside Cobo Hall where the dinner was held with signs reading "Say No To Kid Rock" and "Audit NAACP." Adolph Mongo, a political consultant and head of Detroiters for Progress, burned a Confederate flag over a garbage can to emphasize his opposition to Rock.

That flag "stands for hatred, bigotry, racism, murder. Every bigot and racist in this country loves that flag," complained Mongo. "If Kid Rock was alive in the 50s in Selma (Ala.) he would have beaten up John Lewis and waving the Confederate flag."

In an interview with Fox 2 before the dinner, Mongo elucidated his position on use of the Confederate flag. "That has become a symbol of hate, bigotry and racism in this country," he said. "That's the battle cry of the Confederacy, who fought to preserve slavery. So, it's unacceptable. Would any Jewish organizations honor any entertainer that flew a Nazi flag at their concerts? No."

Rock, whose real name is Robert Ritchie, called the controversy "a fiasco," and added, "I've never flown that flag with hate in my heart, not one ounce." He also defended his use of the flag as an homage to Southern rock, saying "it simply looks cool." Perhaps to divert attention to the positive, Rock pledged $50,000 to Detroit charities and another $50,000 for storm relief in Southern states ravaged by tornadoes. He ended his speech by saying, "I love America. I love Detroit and I love black people."

Stopping short of calling him a racist, some believe Rock is on the wrong side of proper behavior. In this day and age, public display of the Confederate flag shows a lack of sensitivity to those with a long history of suffering under Confederate authority. Symbols can mean different things to different people, but in this case, there is no mistaking the original message of the Confederate flag. Perhaps it has morphed over time, but then again, perhaps not. I know Jewish people who still refuse to buy German products or tour Germany.

Rock probably isn't a racist, but he could certainly use a heaping helping of some good old fashioned common sense.