South Carolina Needs To Take That Confederate Flag Down Now

The Confederate flag is having a moment in the news today. First, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas does not have to issue Confederate flag license plates–and, if you want the truth, I was actually a little surprised that the state didn’t want to issue them. But hey, a little improvement is always nice.

Then came the news that while the South Carolina State flag and the American flag at the Statehouse were at half mast in response to the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church–the Confederate flag, which also flies there, was still at full mast.

Now you’d think, given what had just happened not even a full day before, that they might remove that flag altogether. But no, not only did they keep it, they kept it at full mast. Because class.

I’m just gonna come right out and say it–the Confederate flag is absolutely revolting and has no place anywhere that has anything to do with the United States Government. It makes me ill to look at it, just as it makes me ill to look at a swastika.

If individual people want to go around with it plastered on the backs of their denim jacket? Fine! They are free to do that, and besides, it helps me know who to avoid. However, a government that is supposed to represent all the people in this country should not be publicly flying a flag that harkens nostalgically back to the days when one group of  people were allowed to keep another group of people as property and committed treason for the purpose of being able to continue to do that. That is completely insane.

Sure! Those who love the Confederate flag continue to insist that it has nothing to do with racism but with “Southern Pride” and “states rights” and honoring those who died in the Civil War (or, as they might call it “The War of Northern Aggression”). But the “state right” those people were fighting for was the right to keep human chattel, and I am not quite sure that’s a thing worth “honoring.”

You don’t see the German government flying the Nazi flag around, out of “respect” for Germans who died during WWII. Germany has the good sense to be embarrassed and ashamed, and not go around trying to claim it as a symbol of regional pride anywhere.

Even if those who embrace it feel like it means something different to them than it does to everyone else–the meaning it has to everyone else matters more. It matters that when people see that flag they think “that is someone who wishes they could still keep black people as slaves” or “that is a state that is disappointed they lost the Civil War, because now they don’t get to keep slaves anymore.”

I don’t know why anyone with any capability of empathy would want to remind people of something so horrible and stomach-churning or make people feel that way if they could help it. The fact that such a symbol is flown at a state capital…I don’t even know. It’s just cruel.

It’s easy to see why Southerners might feel importantly about holding onto symbols of “pride,” as they are quite often targets of derision, and often unfairly so. But perhaps they could come up with something else that isn’t the symbol of something so hurtful to so many people or that doesn’t exclude Southerners who aren’t white. Certainly, they can find something to be proud of that doesn’t evoke the specter of slavery. Something a little less explicitly violent.

Things read how they read, no matter how much people may want that to be different. The Raëlian UFO cult wants to rehabilitate the image of the swastika, but that is not going to happen because it’s associated with too much pain. The same for the Confederate flag. Similarly, I could not throw on a black tricorn hat, an eyepatch and a fake hook hand and expect everyone at a costume party to immediately recognize that I was dressed as Tinkerbell.

It’s time for South Carolina to take that Confederate flag down. Not just for today, but forever.