In an historic move that will forever be remembered as the day racism finally came to an end, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has signed into law a measure removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. The culmination of weeks of debate, the flag’s removal has had a series of ripple effects. The Southern Poverty Law Center declared racism “dead,” the NAACP officially merged with the Ku Klux Klan, and Southerners everywhere denounced their heritage of black oppression.
Instead of focusing on the heinous crimes of one disturbed murderer, South Carolina and the rest of the country decided to use the Charleston church shooting as an excuse to attack a visible symbol of the Confederacy. The flag has long been a source of controversy, but the line between the stars and bars and Dylann Roof is tenuous at best. Yes, he had a Confederate flag license plate. So what? Did we demand that orange hair dye be removed from stores after James Holmes shot up that theater? If Adam Lanza had been photographed in front of an LGBT flag, would we have revolted against that symbol in the wake of Sandy Hook?
At best, the flap over the flag has been a trivial distraction. At worst, it is a blatant attempt to erase Southern heritage in the wake of a terrible tragedy that had nothing to do with the Confederate flag. And worst of all, Republicans like Haley, Jeb Bush, and others have not bothered to put up the slightest resistance to this obvious attack. Polls show that Americans are split right down the middle when it comes to the flag, but you wouldn’t know it from watching our elected representatives. In Washington and Charleston, politicians have avoided supporting the flag as though it is akin to supporting slavery.
Only a few politicians have had the guts to speak out for Southern heritage. Those that do risk everything to tell the truth. That Southerners don’t support slavery. That the Confederate flag stands for much more than the actual Confederate army. It has come to stand for the Southern way of life. Heritage. Pride. Ancestry. Freedom. Has it been used as a symbol of racism as well? Absolutely. But the vast majority of its supporters look at that flag and see an inextricable part of their history.
If removing the Confederate flag would prevent mass shootings, no one would oppose it. If it would cure racism, everyone would be on board with its removal. But taking it down will do nothing. Nothing at all. It is a gesture of pure nonsense, meant to satisfy easily-impressed liberals before they get bored and move on to something else. Unfortunately, long after everyone has left this disturbing tragedy behind, Southerners will have to live with the unfair allegations liberals have smeared them with. Taking the flag down may appear as a moment of unity, but it is actually a stunning move towards a new era of division.