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Coates writes: "The flag that Dylann Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, endorses the violence he committed."

South Carolina's Capitol Building with Confederate flag in front. (photo: Jason Eppink)
South Carolina's Capitol Building with Confederate flag in front. (photo: Jason Eppink)


Take Down the Confederate Flag at South Carolina's Capitol - Now

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

19 June 15

 

The flag that Dylann Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, endorses the violence he committed.

ast night, Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church, sat for an hour, and then killed nine people. Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag. Visitors to Charleston have long been treated to South Carolina’s attempt to clean its history and depict its secession as something other than a war to guarantee the enslavement of the majority of its residents. This notion is belied by any serious interrogation of the Civil War and the primary documents of its instigators. Yet the Confederate battle flag—the flag of Dylann Roof—still flies on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth...

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly the manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice.

Surely the flag’s defenders will proffer other, muddier, interpretations which allow them the luxury of looking away. In this way they honor their ancestors. Cowardice, too, is heritage. When white supremacist John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, Booth’s fellow travelers did all they could to disassociate themselves. “Our disgust for the dastardly wretch can scarcely be uttered,” fumed a former governor of South Carolina, the state where secession began. Robert E. Lee’s armies took special care to enslave free blacks during their Northern campaign. But Lee claimed the assassination of the Great Emancipator was “deplorable.” Jefferson Davis believed that “it could not be regarded otherwise than as a great misfortune to the South,” and angrily denied rumors that he had greeted the news with exultation.

Villain though he was, Booth was a man who understood the logical conclusion of Confederate rhetoric:

"TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN":

Right or wrong. God judge me, not man. For be my motive good or bad, of one thing I am sure, the lasting condemnation of the North.

I love peace more than life. Have loved the Union beyond expression. For four years have I waited, hoped and prayed for the dark clouds to break, and for a restoration of our former sunshine. To wait longer would be a crime. All hope for peace is dead. My prayers have proved as idle as my hopes. God's will be done. I go to see and share the bitter end….

I have ever held the South were right. The very nomination of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, four years ago, spoke plainly, war—war upon Southern rights and institutions….

This country was formed for the white, not for the black man. And looking upon African Slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution. I for one, have ever considered if one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation. Witness heretofore our wealth and power; witness their elevation and enlightenment above their race elsewhere. I have lived among it most of my life, and have seen less harsh treatment from master to man than I have beheld in the North from father to son. Yet, Heaven knows, no one would be willing to do more for the negro race than I, could I but see a way to still better their condition.

By 1865, the Civil War had morphed into a war against slavery—the “cornerstone” of Confederate society. Booth absorbed his lesson too well. He did not violate some implicit rule of Confederate chivalry or politesse. He accurately interpreted the cause of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, men who were too weak to truthfully address that cause’s natural end.

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.

Take down the flag. Take it down now.

Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.

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+27 # hoodwinkednomore 2015-06-19 09:38
Boycott South Carolina 'til they take it down!
 
 
+28 # cymricmorty 2015-06-19 09:49
Nikki Haley is fine with it because no CEO has ever complained about it. That says it all. Racism, corporatism, it's all just fine with her.
 
 
+23 # Blackjack 2015-06-19 09:54
Only through the actions of former Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, did the flag come down from atop the statehouse dome. "Compromise" placed it on the statehouse grounds next to the Confederate monument. Hodges lost his bid for reelection primarily because of the flag issue. After its removal from the dome, there have been some further attempts to have the flag removed entirely from the statehouse grounds to the state museum. 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Vincent Sheheen, included removal of the flag as part of his campaign platform. He got nowhere. . .less than nowhere. It hurt his candidacy as now Governor Nicki Haley, thought it in a perfectly apt place and the Republicans in this state agreed, especially the Tea Party types, with which Haley associates. African Americans have learned not to be too vocal about this miscarriage of justice less they suffer further political defeats. Gov. Haley says she has had NO outcry about the flag from businesses that might wish to locate to the state, so sees no need to make the flag an issue. In other words, for Ms. Haley and her ilk, only the loss of business interests would compel removal of the flag. Such is the current state of this state, shameful as it is.
 
 
+8 # Majikman 2015-06-19 10:38
What would be entirely appropriate for the confederate flag is to fly it in tandem with the Jolly Roger.
 
 
+5 # lfeuille 2015-06-19 17:20
Quoting Blackjack:
Only through the actions of former Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, did the flag come down from atop the statehouse dome. "Compromise" placed it on the statehouse grounds next to the Confederate monument. Hodges lost his bid for reelection primarily because of the flag issue. After its removal from the dome, there have been some further attempts to have the flag removed entirely from the statehouse grounds to the state museum. 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Vincent Sheheen, included removal of the flag as part of his campaign platform. He got nowhere. . .less than nowhere. It hurt his candidacy as now Governor Nicki Haley, thought it in a perfectly apt place and the Republicans in this state agreed, especially the Tea Party types, with which Haley associates. African Americans have learned not to be too vocal about this miscarriage of justice less they suffer further political defeats. Gov. Haley says she has had NO outcry about the flag from businesses that might wish to locate to the state, so sees no need to make the flag an issue. In other words, for Ms. Haley and her ilk, only the loss of business interests would compel removal of the flag. Such is the current state of this state, shameful as it is.

Quoting hoodwinkednomore:
Boycott South Carolina 'til they take it down!


So maybe a campaign to boycott SC and businesses headquartered there might have a chance of working.
 
 
+11 # bmiluski 2015-06-19 10:25
If you're going to fly the Confederate flag, then why not the British flag?
 
 
+20 # myungbluth 2015-06-19 10:37
If the Supreme Court (and others) say that racism is in the past, then why isn't the confederate flag - strongest symbol of slavery and racism - also in the past? Answer: racism is alive and well in South Carolina, as well as the deep south! TAKE THE CONFEDERATE FLAG DOWN!
 
 
+13 # Trish42 2015-06-19 11:27
If there was ever any doubt that the only true motivation for the GOP is money, Haley's words: "no businesses ever complained about it" remove any question as to why that flag still flies in SC. The Republicans (and the corporate Dems) would sell their mother, much less their country for a dollar!
 
 
+11 # randi1randi1@yahoo.com 2015-06-19 11:54
In this country, people who murder people of other ethnic or racial groups are called racists; in the rest of the world they are called terrorists. We have our own, home-grown brand of terrorist, but we continue to refuse to use that term to describe them because it will look like our country and it citizens are no different from every country and its citizens. We produce, and protect, the same kind of terrorists we accuse others of producing and harboring. But you'll never hear that kind of talk from any one with political ambitions in this country, or from any one in the media. There is no one here taking up the cudgel dropped by Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy when they were assassinated by the Uniquely American kind of political terrorists we continue to protect with our primitive customs and traditions, like that flag that continues to fly at the SC state capitol, and the barbarians who defend it and continue thumbing their noses at human rights and human progress in all matters alien to their culture of exclusion and domination
 
 
+11 # Blackjack 2015-06-19 12:14
SC is not alone with its insistence on flying the confederate flag. Georgia has it as a separate symbol within its flag, which flies from atop the statehouse dome.

A funny personal story illustrates the absurdity of the flag issue. A liberal friend had a colleague who became concerned when the flag taken from the dome was replaced by one made from the original fabric of the 1860's. The thing simply would not fly because the fabric was too heavy. My friend said he thought the colleague was right; that the flag should be replaced by the one flying when the Civil War ended. The colleague agreed and asked which flag that would be. My friend replied "the white one." I've always thought that comment an entirely appropriate solution to the flag issue.
 
 
+6 # Farafalla 2015-06-19 14:21
What part of losing the war do these neo-Confederate s not understand? It was a bloody long war with huge numbers dying, cities destroyed, people displaced. It was provoked by the idea that slave owners could make their own little utopia. That utopia was hell for millions of black people. I am happy the "damn yankees" won. But in their victory they were too generous to the rebel white southerner and not generous enough with the former slaves. Had the North sought to truly defeat the white southerners, they would have paid reparations to the former slaves and destroyed all vestiges of the Confederacy, including their "stars and bars".
 
 
+6 # Billy Bob 2015-06-19 21:22
By the way, it's not even the "Confederate Flag". It's the Confederate BATTLE Flag. They had a unique flag, specifically for battle, and this is it. The actual Confederate flag looked different than what most people think.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flags_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America#/media/File:Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1861-1863).svg

The point isn't about "bein' a 'good ol' boy' drivin' a Dodge Charger, and buckin' authority". It is, and has always been a sign of TREASON and SEDITION against the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. People who fly this flag proudly, are proudly proclaiming their open hatred for America.
 
 
+3 # Dongi 2015-06-20 00:08
The Confederate flag is a symbol and a potent one of rebellion for a most unworthy cause: continued enslavement of one race for the economic betterment of another. If the South refuses to acknowledge this, then, it is being particularly obtuse.

Bit, I think the South is aware of all the hidden meanings of flying the Confederate flag especially at state capitals like South Carolina and Georgia. It shows an attachment to the values of the Confederacy and a continued support for w;hat that regime stood for; namely, racism.
 
 
+2 # Blackjack 2015-06-20 09:02
Billy Bob, the Republican hierarchy in SC call the flag now flying on the statehouse grounds the "Soldier's Flag." That, apparently, is how they justify it as merely a way to honor the brave soldiers (some of them blood kin) who fought so hard, many times giving their lives, in a cause for which they felt so strongly. They never acknowledge that that cause was the continuation of slavery. Don't ask me how people can continue to swallow that garbage as a justification for the hard-headed stupidity of their ancestors, but they do.
 
 
+2 # Billy Bob 2015-06-20 19:36
Yeah, by that logic, perhaps the Michigan Militia should adopt its own flag to "honor" Timothy McVeigh. Come to think of it, I suppose that would ALSO be the Confederate Battle Flag.
 
 
+2 # kyzipster 2015-06-20 09:09
This is a good opportunity to demand this flag be taken down, I don't disagree with any point made in the article.

I hope that we don't ignore what may be the more direct influences by focusing so much on the history of the South and the Civil War which is mostly what I've seen as a response.

This incident feels more like the massacre at a Unitarian Church in Knoxville in 2008 than the church bombing in Birmingham in 1963. The shooter was motivated to kill liberals, 9 people shot, 2 died.

I'm in no way suggesting that racism was not the motivation here but it may be part of a much larger political problem.

This is political, the Southern Strategy used by the GOP is as strong as ever and it has divided populations nationwide. It's not just about appealing to racists, it's about creating divisiveness in any way they can. Dehumanizing people, pitting citizen against citizen. Fueling hatred of liberals. Muslims, immigrants, LGBT people etc.

This murderer was influenced by the history of his region, but his racism has been validated and reinforced by a very powerful political movement that has torn society apart.

I live in the South, the Civil War is not alive in the minds of many people, it's the very distant past. Sometimes I think it's more alive in the minds of outsiders. Resentment of immigrants, Muslims, poor black people, etc, is very much alive, kept energized with a constant feed from Fox News. Lies and half truths, toxic propaganda.
 
 
+2 # Blackjack 2015-06-20 09:27
kyzipster, I don't disagree with anything you say except that I think the Charleston killing was a racist killing, while the Unitarian Church killing was aimed at liberals of all stripes. In both cases, however, I am certain that the shooters were greatly influenced by the hate-filled diatribes that appear in many of society's outlets. A supposedly "free people" have allowed those outlets to flourish, even though we may never be influenced directly by them ourselves. We must be more vigilent, more vocal, more activist in exposing these outlets of hate for what they are. The easy access of guns in our society gives rise to the completion of acts of violence that might have otherwise never come to fruition. We have to recognize that, too.
 
 
+2 # kyzipster 2015-06-20 11:00
I agree. One was hatred of liberals the other was racist but this racism is legitimized and reinforced today in the same way that other forms of bigotry are legitimized. The biggest factor may be political.

There was a gay man shot in the head in Manhattan a few years ago, just because the shooter hates gays. A woman in NY murdered a man she perceived to be Muslim by pushing him in front of a train. It all seems related to me.

History and generational racism most definitely plays a role but media fueled by a political agenda seems like a more direct cause when people act on this hate and it's something that society needs to address, hold people accountable. This seems at least as important as demanding that SC take its flag down. It's like screaming 'Fire!' in a crowded theater. Even subtle racism coming from members of Congress and cable news validates the beliefs of racist cultures, it's their Southern Strategy and its not limited to appealing to racists in the South. I think it's so out of hand that they sometimes create bigotry where it may not exist otherwise. We're on the same page but I wasn't suggesting that racism isn't to blame.
 
 
+2 # Blackjack 2015-06-20 13:21
kyzipster, you make a very good point about the political part of racism. It has been used repeatedly for centuries and has generally worked. Reagan obviously used it, though it was more subtle then. Now with instant everything, it's becoming harder to hide. Hidden agendas get revealed in posts on Facebook (and other social media outlets), even the MSM is getting called on the carpet more frequently. This may be one of the biggest contributions of the internet and may be one of the reasons that internet providers want to limit its access.
 

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