After penning an insightful Facebook post about the Ferguson riots last year, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson has provided social commentary on social media once more, this time about the confederate flag. Watson took to Facebook in response to last week’s Charleston, South Carolina, shooting that left nine people dead in a racist rampage.
Watson, 34, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but attended high school in South Carolina, where the confederate flag remains a visible symbol of Southern culture.
Watson has mixed feelings about that.
“It’s something that I’ve thought about for a very long time,” he said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Growing up in Virginia and then moving to South Carolina (for) high school, being in the South – going to school at Duke first and then the University of Georgia – it’s a topic. It’s always been a topic. I can remember moving to South Carolina in ’96, and soon after that is when they moved the confederate battle flag from off the state capitol down to the monument in 2000. I remember there was a big debate then about what to do with the flag, whether to remove it. Kind of the compromise was to move it to the memorial there. That was back in 2000. Now it’s coming back again another 15 years later.”
Watson saw confederate flags all the time in high school and wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“There’s always that kind of mixed feeling with me of giving people grace to understand people fly the flag for various different reasons,” Watson said. “Some people are what we would say to be racist, and some people just want to represent where they’re from, the South. Some people may even just like the colors of the flag. There’s a bunch of different reasons, and I shouldn’t automatically assume that somebody (who’s) flying the flag doesn’t care for people that look like me.”
Watson’s best friend in high school, in fact, was white. Watson recalled going to his friend’s house and seeing a confederate flag on the ceiling.
“I was kind of taken aback because this is a guy I knew cared about me because of who I was, not because of the color of my skin,” Watson said. “But when I was able to express to him how it made me feel, he had never actually thought about the fact of somebody feeling different from him. The great thing is he was able to see that and say, ‘You know what? I’m going to take this aside and kind of quench my liberty to fly this flag because it’s offensive to my brother.’ And I think that’s the overarching thing that I just wanted to put out there.
“You don’t need a totally politically correct knee-jerk reaction for everybody to take down the flag everywhere – like what we’re seeing,” Watson continued. “We really need a heart change. And for some people who the flag, they’re not flying it for racist reasons. How about let’s listen to the shared history of some of our other brothers and sisters? If you’re willing, kind of set that aside and say, ‘You know what? This is offensive to somebody else. It’s kind of driving a wedge between us as Americans, and so, I’ll put this aside because I know it’s offending you.’
“I don’t look at this as a moral issue like marriage or civil rights or human trafficking or abortion. I look at it as kind of like an American issue. We have people that are seriously offended by this emblem. Let’s put it aside. Let’s remember the history, but let’s not flaunt it in public space.”