Saturday, August 17th, 2019

Throwing the flag

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It’s sad that it took a racist killing nine people to force South Carolina to take down the Confederate Battle Flag. Whatever dreams of stoking racial violence Dylann Storm Roof had, they were strongly rejected Monday with the call by Republican Governor Nikki Haley for the removal of the flag from the grounds of the state capitol.

No, the flag did not cause Roof to kill nine people. Many Americans from all parts of the country see the flag as a symbol of rebellion. They display the flag proudly while ignoring the horror of slavery it was raised to defend. The flag does not inspire within them racial hatred, nor does it incite them to violence. Whatever caused Roof to kill nine people it was within himself and his own dark soul.

But the flag’s removal is long overdue. It represented a (sometimes dramatic) defense of the southern states’ “peculiar institution” of slavery from slowly being strangled by political pressure from the northern states. The election of Abraham Lincoln did not mean the immediate end of slavery. Lincoln did not believe he had the power to end slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation was only able to be issued as a war-time measure. But Lincoln’s election meant that the end was coming and that any hope of further expansion of slavery in the west was over. Instead of conceding, the southern states chose secession and war. It is that history that is represented by the war banner flying in Charleston.

Past calls for the flag’s removal went unheeded, unfortunately. There was (and is) no need for the flag to continue flying. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush successfully moved the Confederate flags at the capitol to the museum. Now he’s a leading contender for president.

Retail giant Walmart announced Monday that they will stop selling items with the Confederate Battle Flag. Other retailers should follow their example.

Other states, too, should follow South Carolina’s example after the flag is removed. Georgia’s flag is actually a modified version of the original national flag of the Confederacy. Mississippi actually incorporated the battle flag into their flag.

The Confederate Battle Flag is not just “offensive,” it was a symbol raised in defense of the enslavement of an entire people. It was raised again in symbolic defense of denying an entire people their civil rights. Today it is a rallying symbol for racists in our society. We cannot – and should not try to – ban the Confederate Battle Flag, but we can remove it as a symbol that is officially honored.

No, taking down the Confederate Battle Flag will not bring back those nine people who were killed. But taking down the flag will show that the racial terror Roof and others would like to bring back to the South is gone forever.

If we’re to honor the spirit of rebellion, the desire for freedom and independence, let’s choose a flag of winners instead.

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