No more Con­fed­er­ate flags

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

For those who ro­man­ti­cize the Old South, the red, white and blue crossed bars of the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle f lag sym­bol­ize a lost way of life, framed in a nos­tal­gia for a time that was, sup­pos­edly, one of honor and pride and glory. For most Amer­i­cans, how­ever, that f lag was and is the sym­bol of a vi­o­lent upris­ing to de­fend the in­de­fen­si­ble in­sti­tu­tion of slav­ery. It is the ban­ner of white supremacy.

Sel­dom has the f lag seemed more ob­jec­tion­able than in the af­ter­math of the slaugh­ter of nine African Amer­i­cans at Emanuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston, S. C., last week and the ar­rest of a young man es­pous­ing white su­prem­a­cist views. Af­ter the killings, South Carolina of­fi­cials low­ered the state and U. S. f lags over the Capi­tol build­ing to half- staff. But un­der state law, the Con­fed­er­ate f lag on the Capi­tol grounds still f lies at the top of its 30- foot pole. The im­pli­ca­tion, though un­in­ten­tional, is clear: The Old South does not ac­knowl­edge the nine dead men and women as wor­thy of public mourn­ing.

It was a hor­rific crime. The vic­tims had wel­comed Dy­lann Roof into an evening prayer meet­ing and then, ac­cord­ing to author­i­ties, he gunned them down, leav­ing one sur­vivor with in­struc­tions to re­lay what had hap­pened, in­clud­ing the vile racist com­ments he is al­leged to have made. Some have sought to blame the tragedy on men­tal ill­ness, but if the de­tails are af­firmed, it’s equally fair — and per­haps more fair — to iden­tify the driv­ing sick­ness as racism.

On Mon­day, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley joined the move­ment to per­suade the state Leg­is­la­ture to re­move the f lag from the grounds of the Capi­tol. That is a welcome step by a pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal fig­ure in the state, and it is to be hoped that her sup­port will be enough to se­cure the su­per­ma­jor­ity votes needed in both houses to take down the f lag for­ever.

But all the states of the old Con­fed­er­acy should en­sure that the f lag is re­moved from gov­ern­ment build­ings and grounds, con­sign­ing it, as Pres­i­dent Obama sug­gested, to mu­se­ums. The state f lag of Mis­sis­sippi, in which the rebel ban­ner is em­bed­ded, should be re­designed. Other states whose f lags in­clude parts of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag, or echoes of its de­sign, should think hard about what they sym­bol­ize, about racial in­clu­sive­ness and about how to em­brace history hon­estly.

The Civil War ended 150 years ago. But as we see on a daily ba­sis, it still re­ver­ber­ates through a so­ci­ety that has of­ten proved in­ca­pable of bridg­ing the racial di­vide. One easy way to start build­ing that bridge would be to moth­ball this most po­tent sym­bol of slav­ery, and of ha­tred, while reaf­firm­ing a com­mit­ment to con­front our on­go­ing na­tional dis­grace.

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