The Americans who argue the Confederate flag should continue to fly on the grounds of the South Carolina Capitol claim it represents “heritage, not hate.”
The problem is that the heritage of the Confederacy is hate. The fact that the Confederate flag is still acceptable to fly, 150 years after the American South lost a war over their right to keep thousands of humans as slave laborers, is absurd.
The South. Lost. The War. And it’s time to get over it. As a society, we need to stop indulging the celebration of the worst parts of our past.
This shouldn’t be controversial. We are 150 years beyond the controversy here.
After seeing the photo of Dylann Roof in a jacket with patches of the Rhodesian and old, apartheid-era South African flag, South African journalist Tauriq Moosa tweeted, “Oh god the old South African flag. I’m literally nauseated; that fucking thing. Jesus.”
In other places that have violent, racist pasts, there may continue to be a horrifying underbelly. No one would deny there aren’t still racist people in South Africa or Germany. But there’s a big difference between those places and the United States: those countries’ institutions don’t condone that past. They shun it. They ban its symbols.
The First Amendment protects many forms of speech, even the reprehensible ones. This shouldn’t be changed and the misguided people who want to wave the Confederate flag should be allowed to do so. However, there is no reason symbols of this awful chapter in our country’s history should be allowed at official government institutions.
It should not be news in 2015 when someone compares the Confederate flag to a Nazi swastika. Our society can never hope to move past our racist history without our institutions wholly and completely disavowing that past.
And yet, several Republican leaders still won’t condemn the Confederate flag. The New York Times reports that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of many GOP presidential candidates to equivocate on the flag issue, told reporters in Iowa last week that “the flag is ‘a question for South Carolina.” And the last thing they need is people from outside of the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve it.
“The last thing they need is people from outside of the state coming in and dictating how they should resolve it,'” Cruz said.
The funny thing about that argument was we had a war over whether this was a state or a federal issue. South Carolina’s dedication to states’ rights back in 1861 was just part of their quest to get the federal government to let states decide whether to allow enslaved human labour or not. The flag was a symbol of that racist fight. And South Carolina lost.
As a result of this defeat, in 2015, these are some things that should not be controversial: It’s not ok to get married on a plantation. It’s not ok to fly the Confederate flag. It’s not ok to romanticize “Dixieland.” The term Dixie is a direct reference to the heritage of the South. The heritage of slavery. A heritage of hate.
It is a brutally violent heritage that assigned black slaves three-fifths of the value of a human life, and fought a war to keep it that way. There is no appropriate reaction to that part of our country’s heritage other than deep shame.