The 17th of June 2015 will be a day that is remembered forever in the minds of both citizens of the United States of America and citizens of the world. It was a day in which Dylann Roof, a twenty-one year old white male, shot and killed nine black christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Though the act was, quite rightfully, universally acknowledged as a hate crime, a slightly more nuanced and debated argument has arisen over the relevance and reputation of the Confederate flag and its modern use in many states in the American South.
Designed by William Porcher Miles and adopted as a battle flag by General Robert. E Lee’s Army of North Virginia during the American Civil war, the flag then and since has become a symbol for Southern pride, a preservation of Southern culture and a nod to conservative politics. The flag is still flown proudly atop many local government buildings across Southern states and is seen by many who defend its use as a marker of Southern independence from the vastly different cultures of the rest of the United States.
However, aside from these seemingly innocent connotations, the Confederate flag also brings with it a sinister reminder of the darker history of the American South. This history includes widespread racism, a history of slavery, and a historical belief in white supremacy. It is for these combined reasons that the flag has become a much publicized and debated feature of the tragic events of June 17th.
Photos emerged of Dylann Roof worshipping the Confederate flag and burning the Star Spangled Banner; a strong indicator that his racist views were, in his mind, views that were defended and even upheld by his flag of choice. It then became a topic of some outrage that South Carolina, the very state in which these nine innocent black victims were murdered, flew the Confederate flag on its official buildings. The question began to be asked, is it time to remove the flag and bring the South out of its reverence for a troubled past, or should the people of South Carolina be free to show their Southern pride and culture in a symbol that, for them, has a different meaning?
In conclusion, I feel that all historical evidence and context points towards the fact that the Confederate Flag should indeed by eliminated from American culture. We must ask ourselves, why is it illegal to display a swastika in Germany but seemingly fine for a Confederate flag to be displayed in the South? One would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that whilst Germany is ashamed of its dark past, the American South remains somewhat insensitive and unapologetic. This is perhaps a shocking comparison to make, but it is nonetheless an important one. Pride in untarnished Southern culture can be displayed in numerous ways. Perhaps it is time it was channeled in to a symbol that doesn’t carry such evil and shameful historical memories.