Silencing a symbol
The Confederate flag takedown has had a domino effect across cities and counties in the Southeast. For many, the red, white and blue emblem that represents a segregated, violent past has been wiped from America’s purview.
In Columbia, S.C., Marion County, Fla., and Danville, Va. – to name a few – government officials have opted to remove the controversial flag that for some signifies slavery and racial divides and for others, represents the honor of Southern heritage. The removals follow the tragic massacre of nine black parishioners in a Charleston, S.C., church at the hands of Dylann Roof, who had been photographed waving the Confederate flag before the incident. It’s noble that county and state officials felt moved to strike down the symbol of America’s racist past.
Yet, as admirable as the effort may be, the reality is folding those Confederate flags and tucking them away in drawers and museum exhibits hasn’t ended an era.
Erasing the flag from South Carolina’s capitol steps after the racially-charged massacre would ideally reflect a united country standing against some of the horrendous violence and hate associated with the “rebel” flag. However, the end result has highlighted the line in the sand that still lingers on race relations in communities across the country.
On one side of the line, protesters against the flag and Confederate monuments altogether have spray-painted their viewpoints on national monuments. Bree Newsome gained fame for risking her life and serving jail time for removing the flag from its pole in South Carolina.
On the other, KKK rallies have sought to protest the removals. Reportedly, a conflict involving guns broke out between the white passengers of a truck flying the Confederate Flag and a black family celebrating a child’s birthday.
These incidents prove that silencing a symbol cannot clear mired race relations.
Shedding the racist symbol from the forefront of government buildings is indeed a start, but what goes on behind the doors of those buildings is where the finish lies.
South Carolina happens to be one of a handful of states without hate crime laws. Of course, federal legislation exists, but that does not speak to the state truly standing for justice. To truly signify that hate and the violence that results from it will not be tolerated, South Carolina officials owe those nine victims clear and pointed hate crime legislation.
Let the law speak louder than any flag ever could.