South Carolina and the Confederate Battle Flag

Flags are pieces of cloth. They symbolize something beyond the physical, but a flag is not what it symbolizes. When someone burns the American flag, they are showing anger at the United States in a symbolic say, (which makes those of us who like the US, angry). But burning the American flag is not burning America, which is why it is protected free speech to burn the flag, but illegal to burn buildings.

What then, should we understand the Confederate battle flag to symbolize? It apparently was one of several used during the Civil War. It came into heavy use during the civil rights movement as a symbol of resistance to desegregation in the South. At various times it has been part of the state flags of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and famously flew over the State House of South Carolina. In 2000 South Carolina removed it from the State House, and specified that it was to fly in front of the State House at a monument to Confederate soldiers. In 2015 the murder of nine African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina brought renewed attention to the Confederate battle flag, since the murderer, Dylann Roof, used it as a symbol of his desire to start a race war.

Led by South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, the legislature voted to remove the battle flag from the grounds of the State House, and return it to a museum. What does this action symbolize?

The racism displayed by Dylann Roof is not unique to him, nor is it located solely in the former Confederate States. However, the use of the battle flag by the governments of the Southern states symbolized their tacit support for various forms of racial hostility. Removal of the flag, then, means that official South Carolina no longer gives that tacit support. Racism is not dead in South Carolina, in the South, or in the rest of the United States. However, removal of the Confederate battle flag means that the government of South Carolina, symbolically, is no longer firing on Fort Sumter.