It’s no secret that racial relations in the U.S. have been strained because of recent events, involving mass shootings, and questionable actions by police officers. The recent tragedy in Charleston brought to light the problem with the Confederate flag. To many, it was surprising to learn that the flag is still flown in South Carolina. To others, it was no big deal; the flag resembled a culture and history that resonates with the South.
They’re not entirely wrong: The Confederate flag does indeed represent a culture and history–but one scarred by slavery, discrimination, and ignorance. The racism embodied in Southern culture was, and still is, geared towards the Black community. Why parts of this country aren’t embarrassed by its sickening history baffles me. This isn’t just an ethical dilemma about promoting a ruthless history, but a dilemma that endorses racism as a whole.
Unfortunately, the solution to racism is far from being found. Changing the mindset of people is a difficult task, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop taking the small steps that we can. Banning the Confederate flag is the first. To promote a flag that upholds the same moral values of the slave owning Southerners is barbaric. When a South Carolinian elementary school student grows up in a household where the Confederate flag waves high, and the father has a bumper sticker of the flag on his truck, what is this student supposed to think when he learns that the bad guys in the Civil War promoted the same flag? For all we know, this kid could be the next Dylann Roof, committing mass murder as a result of an ignorant environment.
It’s time to look across the Atlantic to Germany for some ideas. The Nazi flag was made illegal, and why? Because it was racist, and discriminative, to say the least. Germany is embarrassed by its horrid history, and so should be the United States.
In fact, since the Charleston shootings a few state officials have spoken out on the topic. Governor Bentley of Alabama has removed the flag from capitol grounds. The flag was taken down quickly and quietly, trying to avoid attention. The attempt at keeping this a “secret” failed as supporters of the flag gathered to protest the change. Even the extremely right wing Lindsay Graham from South Carolina has stated the flag is a “road block.” Likewise, Governor Nikki Haley from South Carolina called for the flag to be brought down. Despite Lindsay Graham and Nikki Haley’s surprising disapproval of the flag, Bree Newsome was arrested after she took down the flag from South Carolina’s state capitol grounds.
After influential South Carolina and Alabama officials called for the flag to be taken down, many people turned to Mississippi seeking similar responses. Because the Confederate flag is embedded in the state’s flag, the removal of the flag would be more complicated and controversial. Nevertheless, the stupidity exemplified by the flag prevailed, and Mississippian House Speaker Philip Gunn has called for the removal of this irrational symbol from his state’s flag. Unfortunately, he and Governor Phil Bryant are unable to see eye to eye, as the governor passionately supports the current Mississippi flag.
Looking towards Southern sport culture, NASCAR CEO Brian France has supported the removal of the flag from S.C. state grounds. Because of the flag’s presence during races, France also stated that NASCAR is trying to actively distance itself from the flag, and its meanings. An earlier statement by NASCAR recognized that fans have the right to freedom of expression regarding the flag, but these new claims by France expose a change in thought.
The flag promotes nothing of use. Whenever a Black man walks past the flag, I doubt he is thinking of all the “heroic” soldiers, fighting for what they believed was right. Remember, the Nazis also fought for what they thought was right and important. Most likely, the Black man feels scared and confused. How could he feel safe when the government is showing off this flag, representing the side that wanted to keep his ancestors enslaved? He can’t.
Government institutions flying the Confederate flag allow the average citizen to feel more comfortable sponsoring the flag in their own home–along with the inherent racism it fosters. It’s appalling that the Confederate flag hasn’t been banned in every state, but it’s even more surprising that some people still support the use of it. These same people claim that it’s 2015 and racism doesn’t exist anymore. As long as the flag waves high, racism will continue to be apart of the culture and heritage of the U.S.
(Title image via).