Once again the Confederate flag is in the forefront of the news, in the wake of the South Carolina shooting. Protests have broken out calling for its removal from its place at the state capital. It is not actually on the capital building, having been removed back in 2000, but rather a memorial building close by.
It’s important to note that the previous removal did not prevent this shooting, so there is no reason to believe that moving it again will prevent the next shooting. This discussion is entirely symbolic. A mind on the margin will commit an act of hate regardless of where the Confederate flag is relocated.
I personally do not believe the Confederate flag should ever be allowed to fly on a capital building. That may surprise some of you who know me to be an advocate for free speech, but there is a very simple reason you may not have considered. The unofficial flag of the Confederacy is the flag of a foreign nation that committed an act of treason against the United States. We do not fly the flags of foreign nations on our capital buildings and we do not advocate treason. That should be plain to all.
In this case however, the flag is actually on a memorial building honoring Confederate veterans. It seems obvious to me that is a more appropriate place for it than where it was, a symbol of defiance against desegregation and the civil rights movement flying atop the state capital. Having the Confederate flag on the South Carolina building also had a Constitutional problem. It stood in open defiance to the 13’th Amendment guaranteeing equality of citizenship and legal protection to black citizens. The state of South Carolina had a plain obligation to guaranty Constitutional liberties to black residents, and by mounting the Confederate flag on their capital building, they were plainly saying no to that obligation. If that’s not illegal… it should be.
Yet here we are faced with a dilemma. Are we going to move a Confederate flag every time there’s a shooting, despite that it won’t prevent further shootings? You will understand that this symbol is not going away. Even though I believe it is Constitutional to ban this flag on capital buildings, it still has 1’st Amendment protections for any citizen or group. It’s not going anywhere.
For proud southerners, it has taken on it the symbolism of all things southern culture, and while I personally think it has more to do with oppression, tyranny and treason, there is no reason to say it can’t also be a symbol of a good shrimp gumbo. Additionally, I can’t help but think that if their flag is taken from them the people who pride themselves in it will resent it, and what bigotry they have will likely be fed and strengthened.
Pull the flag? Probably not a good idea… unless you really want to strengthen white, southern racism, which is probably strong enough as it is.