For those of you who may not have heard, the Confederate flag that has remained for 54 years on South Carolina’s Capitol grounds was taken down Friday, July 10th. Along with the retirement of the flag came the symbolic retirement of the philosophy that the flag could only represent southern pride, one side of the story. Finally, the era of black and white arguments over the true meaning of the flag has transitioned into the 21st century, where black and white are replaced with hazy gray areas. In these modern times, the flag really has two prominent interpretations: southern pride, and the promotion of racism. Notice the use of the word “and” with these two interpretations. The “and”, the gray area, is the reason why the discussion of the Confederate flag’s true meaning has persisted this long, and why it took the brutal massacre of nine African American worshippers to convince the South Carolina legislature and the common people to call for its removal.
The Confederate flag has a long and complicated history, from the Civil War, to the Civil Rights Movement, to the present day. Its use during the Civil War is what gives the flag such a gray area. One the one hand, it is valiant to fight and die for what one believes in as the Confederate soldiers had done. However, one must not forget the cause that the Confederate soldiers fought for: the continuance of slavery, the construct responsible for the systematic degradation of Africans and African-Americans. Furthermore, the Confederate flag was a key symbol used by the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement, whom, also, saw it as a symbol of not only southern pride, but also of the oppression of African-Americans. Let this nation not ignore in these modern times, for the sake of convenience and/or embarrassment, the baggage that the Confederate flag carries.
If we as a nation choose not to forget the many meanings of the Confederate flag, the never-ending discussion over its one true intention never needs to be resolved. It continues to hang in limbo between southern heritage and racism, simply because both beliefs continue to exist in society. No matter what people claim are the true intentions, the history of the flag is unalterable. Southern pride does not trump the centuries of enslavement and injustice that African-Americans have faced in this country. Southern heritage does not exclude this country’s history of violence and discrimination towards African-Americans. Simply put, the history of the usage of the Confederate flag should not and can not be erased or smudged over by claims of “southern pride”. Instead, it should be recognized. The removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol grounds on Friday was an example of just that, recognition of the mistakes of the nation’s past, and a solemn vow to not make them again.