This past Sunday, the Detroit NAACP honored Kid Rock with the Great Expectations Award at their annual Fight for Freedom Fund dinner for his charitable contributions to the city of Detroit. Michigan-native Kid Rock has been known to use the highly-controversial Confederate flag at his performances, an act which has ticked off people who consider the flag to be a symbol of slavery, racism and hate. About 50 people gathered outside Detroit’s Cobo Center on Sunday and burned the Confederate flag during their protest of the event.
Kid Rock has stated that his use of the flag has nothing to do with racist views but rather his love of the South and southern rock groups like Lynard Skynard, a group known to fly the flag at their shows as well. Kid Rock told the crowd, “I love America. I love Detroit, and I love black people,” after accepting the award. “I’ve never flown that flag with any hate in my heart. Not one ounce.” NAACP President Wendell Anthony defended giving Kid Rock the award stating, “We’re not lifting up the flag. We’re lifting up a gentleman who has worked very hard to be a booster for Detroit.”
Like rapper Eminem, Kid Rock has long been an advocate for the city of Detroit, whose population is over 80% black according to the 2010 census. In 2008, he collaborated with Detroit’s Wayne State University to create the Made in Detroit Endowed Scholarship designed to help Detroit-area students with limited financial resources afford to go to college. In 2010, his foundation donated money to a grassroots organization with the mission of giving burials to the masses of unclaimed bodies in the city, many of whom were the victims of gang violence. Kid Rock also announced $50,000 in donations to local organizations at the end of his speech. There is no questioning Kid Rock’s dedication to helping the people of Detroit and his philanthropy ought to put to rest any notions that the man is racist.
However, his judgment in flying the Confederate flag at his shows should certainly be questioned. For many defenders of the Confederate flag, it is simply a symbol of Southern pride with absolutely no racist connotations attached to it. And on a broader level, with the election and extraordinary success of the nation’s first Black President, some might say and have said, that racial bigotry in the United States is a thing of the past. Whether or not you believe this to be true, the Confederate flag remains an inflammatory symbol for a significant portion of the country for a reason. We think Kid Rock should consider finding another way to pay tribute to his favorite rockers.
Instead of alienating who Donald Trump would call “the blacks,” why not find a better way to show your appreciation for the South and southern music? Give Lynyrd Skynyrd a shout out at every show you do. Or take a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to pay tribute to them. We’re sure you’ve heard the theory that their unapologetic public admiration for the Confederate flag was why it took so long for the group to be inducted.
Why not let your actions, such as the $50,000 donation to storm relief efforts in the South that you announced on Sunday, speak for itself. We realize that many times in life you can’t please everyone, but in this case you can.
While the Confederate flag, like any symbol, holds different meanings for different people, the history of racial oppression attached to it simply is not something we as a society can, or should ignore. It would be easier to gloss over the United States of America’s sometimes dark, sometimes painful past of slavery and segregation, but what would that accomplish?
To create a “More Perfect Union” we must not collectively forget what has brought this nation to where we are today. To ignore the full picture of our history is to ignore all the progress we’ve made.