In the aftermath of nine black people shot dead by a white supremacist, as an act of terror, to in his words reclaim the country and avenge rape by black people, symbolism matters.
Rather than going for handguns, the political will has been mustered to go for the confederate flag. It’s designer said it would help:
“maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race. ”[Source]
That reality, has been brought home in the wake of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. How do you expect white supremacist ideals to be challenged when the flag that represented such an ideology still flies over state buildings, and roads bare the names of Generals that fought to prevent freedom and liberty for all? Jon Stewart makes that point in the above video.
The flag has now been removed now from South Carolina’s state house. Reducing it’s legitimacy as a political symbol is welcome. Now comes how to deal with the historical and cultural legacy.The Apple App Store banned a game based on the Battle of Gettysburg, because the South are depicted with the flag. As the makers point out:
The historical “Gettysburg” movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. [Source]
Flags are rallying symbols, endowed with the symbolism ideologues chose to give them. Walmart no longer stock anything that displays the flag. While politicians come together across the left and right to end the legitimacy public institutions gave the flag, the tougher challenge remains.
Challenging racist attitudes in public institutions like the police, going after violent rhetoric of white supremacists. Acknowledging the United States was built on the genocide of Native Americans. Slavery providing the economic foundation for once white colonialists then free white members of the Republic, to build a nation.
Racial oppression is at the heart of the American story. Somehow it has to be faced by the modern day citizens of the United States. Language is everything, it was once these United States – flying the flag represented that idea also. Banishing it from history is much the same as denying the nightmare upon which the American Dream was to be realised. A country has not come to terms with history when some cannot contemplate seeing it in a museum; something argued in this Slate article.
Removing the confederate flag was not just symbolic – it was about identity. That identity narrative now has to be fought against white supremacists with the same urgency as to preserve the Union. The battle for hearts and minds is ever as important as those that take place upon the battlefield.
Just do not mention the guns – another symbol of a historical freedom yet to be tarnished by the blood it has shed. We have to face the past to have a better future, together. The ability to endure bloodshed in pursuit of certain ideals is a lasting legacy.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog