Thursday, June 18, 2015

The flag of treason and slavery flies high in South Carolina

The American flag and the South Caroline flag were lowered to half staff at the South Carolina statehouse today, in mourning for the nine African American people murdered yesterday by a racial terrorist.

But the Confederate battle flag, the flag of treason and slavery, remains at full staff.
Internet chatter lit up about the debate Thursday. 
“When you fly the Confederate flag in your state capital you are sanctioning this terrorism. Just FYI,” Roxane Gay said on Twitter. 
The “ubiquity of the Confederate flag in the South should be a source of shame/outrage. Not here for any lame-ass ‘history’ arguments,” said LadyHawkins, also on Twitter. 
Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down. 
State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.” 
The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War. Opponents say it defends a system that supported slavery and represents hate groups. 
In a show of respect, a brief recognition ceremony was held in the Senate chamber Thursday. The U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered from the dome. The square Confederate banner that’s in front of the building and on display at the Confederate monument was left alone.
We American white people like to think that our country is better than all the others in the world, that there is something "exceptional" about the United States. But consider: in the United States it is legal to fly the flag of treason and slavery, the flag of those who defended the inhuman system of slavery that lasted for hundreds of years. White people claim that they are defending their "heritage" when they fly it. The heritage of treason, the heritage of slavery, the heritage of the lash, the heritage of hatred, the heritage of selling children away from their parents and husbands away from their wives.

In Germany, where I am living this year, it is illegal to fly a Nazi flag or to give the Nazi salute. Public expressions of antisemitism are illegal. You can get arrested for doing these things.

Why do people still fly the Confederate flag proudly? They should be ashamed of it just as most Germans are ashamed of the Nazi flag and the crimes it stands for.


  1. I certainly do agree that the Confederate battle flag should be banned and the only place that it be seen be in a museum or a book on the Civil War (and the terrorism afterwards in its name). I have had the rather dubious "honour" of living in the South twice in my life: North Carolina from 1958-62 and South Carolina from 1977-79. I will NEVER live there again. I first time I saw Jim Crow Laws and the humiliations they perpetuated (and I was just a child). The second time there were still large bill boards with messages about supporting the local KKK. There is not enough hospital strength cleanser to clean out that whole area of its stink.

    1. Germany doesn't have a First Amendment. You can fly an ISIS flag here if you want to.

    2. According to the German Constitution, Article 5.1, "Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship."

      Article 5.2, "These rights shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons, and in the right to personal honour." This means that there are limits on freedom of speech in Germany, which is, I would guess, the opening in the law that permits banning the Nazi flag, the swastika, and the Nazi salute.

      The American First Amendment would of course make it impossible to ban the Confederate flag, but my hope is that out of a sense of shame states and individual people will come to the opinion that it should not be flown. I'm not suggesting that the Constitution be changed in order to ban the Confederate flag - what I'm suggesting is that the US needs to learn from Germany how to confront the atrocities that we committed in the past.