EDITORIAL: The South needs to let go of the Confederate flag

The Confederate flag, still donned on belt buckles and license plates, has long accessorized the notion of Southern pride, one that won’t quit regardless of the circumstances.

After a 21-year-old white man murdered nine people gathering for bible study at the predominantly black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., last Wednesday, the state’s Capitol continued to fly its Confederate flag 30 feet in the air the next morning, as reported by the New York Times. Especially considering the racial motivation behind the crime, the insensitivity of the flag still being up has brought upon the lasting debate on whether to display the flag at all. 

Those supporting the flag tout “heritage, not hate.” Yet, the fact that the flag undoubtedly represents a racist history makes it impossible to see it as anything but hateful. 

Along with his recently released manifesto, photos of Dylann Roof, the suspect of the Charleston massacre, brought his white supremacist attitude to the forefront. In addition to photos of Roof posing with apartheid-era flags of South Africa, he is also seen on a car with a license plate with the Confederate flag.

It’s irksome to know a state’s government building continues to display the Confederate flag after one of its cities faced a vile hate crime that garnered national attention. It’s not enough to keep it just because some regard the flag as an emblem of Southern culture instead of racism. 

The battle flag, as mentioned by the Anti-Defamation League, was one of the many flags the Confederacy used. It was just the one chosen by groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and later by white supremacists in the 20th and 21st centuries to represent the Confederacy.

Seeing the flag as symbolic of culture and heritage doesn’t stand in comparison to its history of slavery, along with it long being a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups of the Citizens’ Councils.

As pointed out in a column on Vox, the flag represents all of these things and bears the same meaning it did during the Civil War. This oppressive, violent history can’t be forgotten by putting a positive veil on it.

South Carolina’s flag was first raised in 1962 in opposition to the civil rights movement, as mentioned in the Washington Post. State Gov. Nikki Haley’s press secretary told ABC News that Haley lacked the authority to remove the flag, as doing so would require permission from the state’s Legislature. 

Regardless, the flag should have been removed a long time ago. Flying it as Charleston mourns the Emanuel A.M.E. Church is undeniably a heinous reminder of a racist ideology that people continue to cling to. 

Sadly, a Pew Research Center poll found that a mere 30 percent of Americans had a negative reaction to the Confederate flag, with 58 percent having no reaction and 22 percent of white Southerners even having a positive reaction.

Still, it’s time for the flag to go. Last Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled Texas is not violating the First Amendment in not allowing the Confederate flag to be shown on specialty license plates.  In 2001, Florida had its Confederate flag removed from Tallahassee. However, Florida still flies a 50-feet-by-30-feet battle flag — which is proclaimed as the world’s largest Confederate flag — in Brandon along I-75 that can be viewed miles away. 

The flag is heavier than Southern pride and representative of more than heritage. As tragedies such as the attack in Charleston still happen, it’s obvious the hatred behind the flag is still with us.