Annie Fullwood, Staff Writer
September 4, 2015
A flag is oftentimes considered the core of a country’s identity. Whether or not the Confederate flag is part of American identity is still under debate.
Since the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., arguments against public and retail use of the flag have spread throughout both the North and South.
Those campaigning against the flag cite both recent and historical acts of racism and violence under the banner of “Stars and Bars” to explain why it is a symbol which should not be promoted.
Most recently, Dylann Roof, a South Carolina citizen currently charged with nine counts of murder after targeting the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, posed with the Confederate flag in pictures found connected to a manifesto. “I have no choice,” said Roof in his unsigned manifesto.
“I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country.”
“We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”
In response, major retailers stopped selling the flag, including Amazon, Walmart, Google, Sears and eBay. States who prominently display the banner found themselves under pressure as well, inspiring policy changes.
South Carolina, who displayed the Confederate flag outside the South Carolina State House, quickly signed the bill, which would remove the flag, into law. After 50 years, the flag was taken down for good.
“Finally we can breathe, we can sigh, we can cheer,” said former South Carolina State Rep. Bakari Sellers to CNN. “This is why Rosa (Parks) sat and Martin (Luther King Jr.) marched, so that we can have events like this.”
Other historically Confederate states, such as Virginia have taken steps to remove the flag.
Mississippi, whose flag prominently features the Confederate flag image, may have a little further to go.
Meanwhile, many Southerners have spoken out against any anti-Confederate flag sentiments. As of July 28, there have been 132 protests in support of the Confederate flag. The Ku Klux Klan protested on the steps of the South Carolina State House.
“They are wrong,” said Ryan Hughes to USA Today, a participant in the protest. “They need a history lesson. They need to go back and look at what this flag really stands for, and that is states rights. That’s freedom from tyranny. That’s freedom from subjugation from the federal government.”
However, many historians believe that the flag has never simply been about states rights, and neither was the Civil War.
“Up to [the 1920s] everyone knew the Civil War was about the slavery system,” said Eric Oakley, visiting lecturer of history. “But then whites started telling a different story: that it wasn’t about slavery, it was about states rights. But if you look back at the sources, rarely did the secession proclamations mention states’ rights at all.”
Despite the disagreements and divisive feelings throughout the nation, part-time lecturer Mary Kendall Hope, part-time lecturer of peace and conflict studies, wants to open up communication to ensure everyone is heard.
“I believe that when you listen to folks and you give them that respect, then you free them to choose to step away from choices of, say, flying a Confederate flag today, which stands for hate for some people,” said Hope.