There it was flapping in the breeze. I can spot that flag hundreds of feet away. When in New Orleans helping to clean up after Hurricane Katrina, I was the only one who noticed it being carted out of a destroyed house while others remained oblivious. The sight of it in an obliterated city stunned and hurt me.
The navy blue X against a bold, red background was unmistakable. It was The Confederate Flag. And it was flapping on the top of a building in Reeftown, New Zealand.
Whenever something regarding race shocks me I go silent. Just like in New Orleans, I was silent…and my peers didn’t notice the flag.
It goes without saying that the flag was out of context. People living in the South of New Zealand’s Southern Island, naturally, consider themselves Southerners. There was even a beer ad campaign extolling the virtues of this Southern Man. Clearly, that ideal, rugged man (personified in the American cowboy) is not just a product of the America myth-making machine.
I squinted up at the flag for I don’t know how long before quickening my pace to catch up with my friends. I honestly didn’t let the flag get under my skin. Seeing the flag in New Zealand is completely different from seeing it in the American South.
That being said, it goes to show there’s a danger in co-opting what you don’t fully understand.
Hours later, we were driving into Nelson. Originally, we were supposed to hike in Abel Tasman National Park, but that would’ve added hours to our trip. Instead, we opted for a boating trip that was nothing short of magical.
Now, before this trip I have absolutely no memory of being on a boat (even though my mom says I’ve been on ferries and things). Regardless of my sea history, I did not have sea legs (or even harbor legs) and found myself crawling around on all fours with no shame. Quite frankly, I didn’t even realize what I was doing until my friends noticed days later that a random leg or arm of mine always managed to show up in a picture’s background. It was hilarious, and just another reason why I can’t take myself too seriously.
The day ended with us watching the sunset over the harbor. There was hot tea, a hammock, and plenty of laughs. It was a peaceful ending to a day that began with a shock.