Yesterday after my post about Last Week Tonight addressing the the Charleston shooting, I had a familiar but still unpleasant feeling: “Wait, what if I’m totally wrong about this?”
I’m a born and raised Northern, the train station I commuted through for years is called Union, and I would no sooner sport a Confederate flag than rock a cowboy hat. So maybe I just don’t get the historical significance of something like the Confederate flag. Maybe it did start out racist, but through the years and various ‘69 Dodge Chargers has morphed into something else. Realistically the entire country celebrates venerated slave-owners every February and July, and it’s not like racist presidents are a thing of the distant past. Why can’t the South have a similar attachment to its pocked but still important history?
Then I remembered, that’s total bullshit.
The Confederate flag does have important symbolic significance. As the emblem of racism in the U.S. That’s why up until yesterday you could find Confederate memorabilia across the country at the nation’s largest retailer. (Also, Walmart, in the immortal words of my friend and colleague Brian Byrd, “You’ve surrendered on the Confederate flag issue. Now if you’d only abolish slavery in your stores.” You assholes.) Does anyone honestly believe that Walmart customers in Michigan buy Confederate flag merchandise because they connect so deeply to the Confederacy defense of states’ rights? Pretending for a minute that the fondness for the plantation-era South is only an attachment to the past, the reverence paid to Confederate soldiers, leaders and uniforms is done in the name of worshiping people who believed so strongly in owning other people that they went to war for it. And the descendents of those slaves that Confederates so desperately wanted to own? They have to live in cities and states that name streets after men who did not see them as human:
But maybe in our rush to remove the Confederate flag, we’re missing a larger point. Removing the flag won’t in any way automatically end racism so maybe we should be focusing on larger issues? Jessica Williams, who refuses to stop killing it, has your answer:
If we’re having this much trouble removing a symbol of racism, we’re in deep dookie if we want to remove actual racism. It’s a deeply complex, systemic cancer that’s spread throughout our nation. And it’s going to be a long, active process.