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Sunday, March 11, 2018 1:00 am

A red flag; a human interaction

Seeing Confederate banner was jarring; meeting the person flying it was eye-opening for two people

Michelle Chambers

On a sunny December winter day, the air was frigid, the roads were icy, and I had a jammed-packed schedule filled with real estate loan closings all over northeast Indiana.

My company, Signing Closers LLC, a professional mobile notary signing company, contracts with banks, escrow and title companies to close their real estate loan transaction offsite. On this day, I was scheduled to conduct a closing at a borrower's home 20 miles outside of Fort Wayne. This wasn't an unusual request; I've driven 60 miles to conduct a closing.

As I drove to my appointment, listening to NPR and enjoying the sunshine, my GPS startled me when it announced: “You've reached your final destination.” The sun was so bright, I couldn't see the address on the house, so I had to trust my handy GPS had arrived at the correct home. As I began to drive down a long driveway, I noticed a flagpole in the front yard. My eyes scrolled up the pole, and flapping in the wind was a Confederate flag.

I must admit, seeing this flag flying prominently in the front yard caused me to press on my brakes. I sat staring at the flag for some time, full of mixed emotions. As I started down the driveway again, I became very concerned about what and who might be awaiting my arrival.

This flag and what it symbolizes to me – “racism,” “hatred,” “oppression” – made me think long and hard about completing this closing. You see, the Confederate flag, for me, is not a symbol of “Southern pride” but represents the pain and suffering my ancestors suffered under the covering of this flag: horrific murders of black men, women and children, countless lynchings, all in the name of the “Confederate.”

One would think I would not be concerned in 2017 about seeing a Confederate flag flying in someone's yard. The truth of the matter is that our nation seems to be going back in time to Make America Great Again – making the flying of Confederate flags acceptable again.

I was confident the borrowers did not know a black woman would be conducting their closing or whether  they even cared (I'm not suggesting the flag would have been taken down, if they had known). I assume they feel very patriotic flying this flag.

The closing did happen.

I rang the doorbell. An older, white gentleman answered the door, and he seemed a little surprised by my presence but welcomed me into his home. The closing proceeded with the customary pleasantries, an explanation of what would happen during the closing, and an overview of the loan documents.

As we moved through the signing and notarization of 100-plus pages, the gentleman was very chatty. He shared with me that he was refinancing his home to buy a luxury RV so he could travel across country with his wife, children and grandchildren to California. I shared with him that I had lived in California for 35 years; I gave him a few pointers on landmarks to visit and great RV camps to stay at. As the closing came to an end, he was very complementary of my services, expressed great gratitude for my coming to his home and wished me safe travels back to Fort Wayne.

In my line of business, I enter daily into the homes of complete strangers. For some, their home is a place of refuge. Lifelong memories are created, life decisions are made – both bad and good – but, most importantly, people decide who can and cannot enter their home.

On this sunny, wintry day, a man flying a Confederate flag in his front yard welcomed me into his home. If I were a betting woman, I'd bet I was the first black woman to cross his home's threshold. Yes, it was a business transaction; he had the right to select another closer once we had met, and I had the right to cancel the closing if I did not feel safe. Instead, we both moved forward with the closing. We treated each other with respect; no mention of the flag was ever made and we closed the transaction without incident.

My opinion of the Confederate flag will never change. And I'm sure he'll continue flying his flag without pause.

Michelle Chambers is a business owner, community activist and former Fort Wayne city clerk and City Council candidate.