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Waving Goodbye to the Confederate Flag

One month after the confederate flag over South Carolina's government headquarters is lowered, our editor Banseka reflects on the reaction and why the flag needs to remain removed from public buildings.

Banseka Kayembe 

Naked Politics Blogger

The confederate flag has long been a symbol of hate and white supremacy within the African American community, yet it is only recently that its’ legitimacy has been questioned by the American establishment. Like many others outside America, I was completely unaware the flag was still flown at all, let alone over any state buildings. The lowering of the flag over the State Capitol building in South Carolina follows the brutal terrorist murder (yes, I’m calling it what the media won’t call it when it’s not a Muslim at the cause, a terrorist attack) of nine black churchgoers by the white supremacist Dylann Roof. Its removal projects a fragment of light in an otherwise gloomy, all too familiar story.

Confusingly for probably many non-American people, a lot of white southerners feel that the flag’s removal is an attack on their culture and heritage. Unfortunately, it seems many Americans don’t know or understand their own history. There can be no question that the flag represented a group of states that were specifically grouped together because of slavery. You could not be part of the confederacy without being a state which permitted slavery. When the civil war began, it was because the confederate states were fighting to allow slavery to creep up back into the northern “free” states. They were protecting their so-called “rights” to own another human being and have them as their property.

Can there be anything more repulsive than a symbol representing the whipping, raping, and systemic economic and social abuse of a group of people stretching nearly three hundred years? Occasionally, there will be those who say, “well it wasn’t that bad” or “it wasn’t that many people”. These people are wrong. The instruments of capture and torture used were so barbaric, even looking at them leaves my soul feeling mutilated. Slavery was the engine of the American economy. It created huge profits and was essential in allowing America to become industrialised and the sophisticated economic powerhouse it is today (for more on this, check out this very short, interesting explanation on slavery’s economic importance here). Even the White House, a supposed symbol of liberty and democracy was built partially with black slave labour. America’s modern economic success is sealed with the blood of African Americans.

Even further than this, the confederate flag was not left over the state capitol building as a hangover from the days of the confederacy. It was specifically raised as a white supremacist symbol during the civil rights movement, as a stand against notion that black people were equal to whites and could share the same schools or even water fountains as one another. It is a common symbol used by various hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. The flag is not a throwback to “southern military bravery” but marred with a perverse racial ideology.

There are those who still insist they are merely celebrating the heroism of their ancestors during the civil war. Which is like believing it’s fine for German people to raise the swastika in remembrance of their Nazi ancestors who fought bravely in World War Two. The flag is soaked in a backwards, slave-bloodied ideology. The sense of entitlement some Southerners must feel, to believe they are not offending anyone by owning such a flag is incredible. These are the same people who would be choking on their moonshine, should anyone in America raise an ISIS flag. Horrendous terrorist acts have been committed under both flags.

The lowering of the flag in South Carolina (which was met with cheers by many of the residents) is a welcome first step, despite being a step that has been taken about 60 years late. The victory of this in many ways is symbolic. 37% of homeless people in America are black, and one in three black men can expect to be imprisoned at some point in their life. The incidents of unarmed black men being shot to death are an even more frequent sight than Kim Kardashian’s naked behind. America may have freed itself from the chains of slavery over one hundred and fifty years ago, but the country’s present is still haunted by the ghosts of its past. That is the real challenge that needs to be overcome.

 

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