It only took a century and spare change, the use of the flag as protest against the Civil Rights Movement, and the death of nine people allegedly at the hands of a white supremacist, but South Carolina’s House has voted to remove the Confederate flag from the capital grounds.
The vote followed what’s been described as “passionate and contentious” debate between people who can see the writing on the wall and those who have an up-close view of it yet still don’t give a damn. The House approved the Senate bill by a two-thirds margin (94-20) and soon Governor Nikki Haley will sign it. In a statement, Haley said, “It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.”
Haley called for the removal of the flag, telling the Today show before the vote, “I don’t think that this is going to be easy. I don’t think that it’s going to be painless. But I do think that it will be respectful, and that it will move swiftly.” Even so, she acknowledges that the removal of the flag is “just the beginning,” adding, “You always want to think that today is better than yesterday, that we’re growing as a state, we’re growing as a country. When something like this happens, you reflect and you say, ’Have we changed enough?'”
The answer is no, with a hell in front of it.
While I am glad that South Carolina did the right thing, I am weary to be too complimentary given how long it took it to do so. Only a year ago, Haley claimed that the flag did not present a problem in South Carolina: “We really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator [Tim Scott]. That sent a huge message.”
Indeed it did, only Haley got the wrong one. Having scant traces of color in positions of elected office may be progress, but it is limited. It does not eat away at the disease of systematic racism and all its variances. Say, the deep-seated hatred the likes of Dylann Roof harbors towards black people and the violent acts that he is able to commit against them because he has easy access to guns. The same can be said of the casual ignorance that many of the majority clings to.
The sort of stupid that has kept the Confederate flag flying for so long in South Carolina and still flies freely in flags for states like Mississippi.
It is not surprising to learn that, according to a CNN/ORC poll, fewer than one in five Southern whites see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, not of Southern pride. There are many monuments dedicated to the Confederacy throughout the South along with many other regions in America. You can call it “Southern pride” all you want, but the fact is much of history is whitewashed. Just look at the state of Texas, which has drawn criticism for new textbooks that play down slavery, Jim Crow laws, and omit the Ku Klux Klan.
It’s easy to recast a symbol of hatred as one of “pride” when you’re force-fed fairytales about it.
It should not have taken the deaths of nine people in 2015 to remove an established symbol of oppression and hatred. It is not as if the Dylan Roofs of a different era did not murder people while rallying behind the same very flag and racist rhetoric. If someone still maintains that they need the Confederate imagery to celebrate Southern pride that is a person who wants to align with racist rhetoric.
The flag belongs in a museum at best, but if I had my black-ass way, it’d be in a trash can after being used as toilet paper. Take it down. Have genuine conversations about racism. Own your privilege. Stop being horrible.