This blog is dedicated to the memories of the nine people who were killed in the Charleston Massacre:
Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lee Lance, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Daniel Simmons Jr., and Depayne Mitchell.
WEEHAWKEN, N.J. (JSC) — In 1982, as a barely 3-year-old boy in Detroit, it was nothing major. It was just an orange flag, with a big blue X and some stars. To me, it was just a funky looking symbol on top of a really cool car. Yep. My first experience with that God-awful symbol of racism, prejudice, tyranny, and treason was on what was the first TV show that I absolutely loved: The Dukes of Hazzard. I was barely able to string together coherent sentences, but I LOVED the Dukes of Hazzard. I loved the car chases, the funny accents, the banjo music, and that really cool orange car, the General Lee. I was a toddler. I knew nothing of the sordid, gross, awful history of the Confederate Flag. So when I was old enough to start liking Hot Wheels cars the following year, I never understood why my mother would never, EVER, buy me the General Lee. The police cruiser that was always chasing the General Lee? Sure. She played it off as the police car is what my dad drove at work. I never really “got it” until I was old enough to start understanding U.S. History and learned about the Civil War. Only then, did it all make sense. Now, some 33 years after my first time seeing the General Lee, it appears that people — be it from a legit epiphany, long-standing guilt, or fear of losing money — have finally begun to smarten up. Let’s Go.
Let’s start this off with something that has been eating at me for years and I’m finally just going to lay it out there: I hate that the issue with the Confederate Flag is called a “debate.” There is no debate. The Battle Flag — the most well known version; the one that adorned the General Lee — is a symbol of racism, tyranny, subjugation, and treason. No matter what some well-meaning, white Southerner will tell you, there is nothing about that flag that should instill anything resembling “pride.” That flag, to me and millions of blacks in this country, is no different than the symbols of Nazi Germany…except once Hitler fell, all those symbols and flags were banned in Germany and relegated to the fringes of society with the Neo-Nazi groups.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the Confederate Flag has become a massive part of society, particularly in the South and parts of the Midwest. It’s not uncommon to spy merchandise with that awful flag on bumper stickers and t-shirts in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. It’s not just a Southern thing.
If you’re black in America, you need not look much further than your own parents or (depending on your age) grandparents to understand why the Confederate Flag is such a problem. My mother is a child of the Jim Crow South. She was born in the small Alabama town of Dadeville in 1943. My late Grandfather, Ezra Nelson, left Alabama in the early 1950s for Detroit. It wasn’t simply to get a job working for Ford Motor Company. It was to get away from the legally-sanctioned segregation of Alabama. A state that untilliterally TODAYflew the Confederate Battle Flag over its state capital. Let’s just assume that you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of misguided fools that sincerely believes that flag is not a symbol of racism but “Southern pride,” what pride is there really? Check out the history books, Jim Bob. Your side lost. Handily. Hell, you get ridiculed for wearing the gear of a losing pro sports team in 2015. Waving the battle flag of a failed insurrection against the country that you currently live in is nothing to brag about.
Mind you, again, that’s not to say that the South is the only place where racists lay their heads at night. That very clearly isn’t the case. Racism is in every facet of American society from the Pacific Northwest to the deepest parts of the Southeast. There are sections of the East Coast, Midwest, and Southwest that are as rife with racists as Mississippi or Alabama. Prejudice is as American as the Stars & Stripes themselves. However, while the South isn’t exclusively racist, it sure as hell innovated the art form.
Prior to the massacre at Emanuel AME in Charleston, the shooter, Dylann Roof, told his victims that “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” The cold-blooded monster intentionally left one survivor to tell the tale of what she saw. He then jumped in his car — which was complete with a Confederate Flag on the license plate — and drove off. He was caught less than 18 hours later just across the North Carolina border. In the week that has followed, all sorts of information has come out about Roof. He’s a 21-year-old, unrepentant, sociopath white supremacist who wanted to start a race war. He got the murder weapon as a birthday gift and singled out that particular chuch because it was well-known. He originally wanted to shoot up the College of Charleston. He ran a website full of racist rhetoric yet, naturally, no one ever seemed to take any of this shit he was doing seriously.
The shooting at Emanuel AME shook me because just a few days earlier, I told my mom to be careful when she went to Bible study at her church in Detroit. My fear was, foolishly, that someone could run up on her in the parking lot. My brain could never process the idea that some racist dirtbag could walk up in a church and start killing people, despite it having happened just three years ago at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin under similar circumstances.
Like all terrorists and mass killers, Roof had a manifesto proclaiming his hatred for blacks. There were also a number of pictures on his website, which I will not name on this blog — Fuck that guy and his page hits — which show him proudly brandishing a gun, jackets that feature flags of Rhodesia, and waving that damn Confederate Flag. It was those pictures that made a whole lot of high-ranking people in South Carolina, which was the first state to secede from the Union, VERY uncomfortable.
So this brings us back to Nikki Haley, South Carolina’s governor, and her almost tearful proclamation that the Confederate Flag — which flew at full staff while the U.S. & State flags flew at half following the massacre — be removed from the grounds of the State Capital last week. While many were quick to commend Haley, who stood along GOP Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham, for making the decree, it rung hollow with me and hundreds of thousands of others. Haley didn’t just become governor of S. Carolina last week. She’s in her second term as Governor and served in the State House before that. She saw that damn flag waving proudly every day and didn’t say boo about it. It apparently took those nine black people to be slaughtered in a church by a maniacal racist who all but cloaked himself in the Stars & Bars like Apollo Creed wrapped himself in Old Glory for you guys to FINALLY say “Let’s take that flag down.” Not the thousands of other lives lost to racial violence over the last 150+ years? Not the almost 1 million lives lost in the Civil War? Not the co-opting of the flag into white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideology? Nope, only now, in 2015, 150 years to the day since the final shot was fired in the Civil War does that damn flag start coming down! Nice work.
Soon thereafter, others started to follow. Mississippi, another Jim Crow stronghold, suddenly piped in about removing the flag from its capital grounds. Robert Bentley, the governor of the aforementioned Alabama, ordered it taken down this morning. Amazon ordered all Confederate flag merchandise off of their site on Tuesday. Wal-Mart, which was founded in Arkansas in 1963, ordered all Confederate flag merch to be removed from their shelves on Monday, to which I said on Twitter:
Congratulations, @Walmart. It only took you 52 years to remove Confederate Flag merch from your stores.
Look, it’s easy to be snarky about this but, in the very least, it’s a start. The thing is that you can ban, take down, and burn every Confederate flag in existence. It still won’t change the attitudes of the people who proudly wave it. Racism will never die in this country, but we’re finally being forced to talk about it. Yes, that includes dragging many white people kicking and screaming into it. I would love nothing more than to see that flag banned in this country the way that Nazi flags are banned in Germany and most civilized Western Nations. But that takes time and a changing of attitudes and I sincerely wonder if we’re fully ready to see that in the next 20-30 years. Either way: Take that damn flag down!
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Wednesday, June 24, 2015.
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different,G.O.M.A.B. Σ, and Remember: #SuccessIsCertain