Why South Carolina must remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Capitol Grounds

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.
Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.

The terror and murder of innocents in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church a few days ago has rightfully sparked a discussion of our country’s problem with race–especially the fact that on a daily basis, black people are targets of white hatred.  And, in the case of 21 year-old Dylann Roof, a white racist from Eastover, South Carolina, his hatred led him to plot and murder nine individuals gathered for prayer in their own church.  They were:

Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Johnson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 49
Myra Thompson, 49

Say their names.  This is a constant refrain, because this story isn’t just about the murderer, it’s as much about those who were killed and the devastation that their families and community are left to deal with.

Enough of this.
Enough of this.

It is also time that South Carolina, in particular, remove one of the most divisive symbols on its Capitol grounds–the Confederate battle flag.  It’s the same flag that Dylann Roof sported on the front plate of his car and one, among other white supremacist flags, that he swore allegiance to.

Governor Nikki Haley feigns surprise at how someone could enter a place of worship to kill people, while also suggesting that this flag is a-okay with business CEOs.

First, Gov. Haley needs to get her head out of the sand. This wasn’t simply an attack on people of faith.  It was an act of racial terror on a specific church.  Anyone with a bare bones understanding of the state’s history, which should include Haley, knows exactly why Roof targeted Emanuel AME.

Second, whether or not CEOs have a problem with the Confederate battle flag on capitol grounds is beside the point. The South Carolina State House is the people’s house.  It doesn’t belong to the CEO of Volvo or any other business considering locating a factory in South Carolina. It belongs to all of South Carolina’s citizens, not just the ones who are clinging to a relic of white supremacy.

The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney

So that flag, the one that inspires racial hatred and murder and hopes of a race war, has no place on the grounds of state government. Shamefully, it flew even as The Honorable Senator Clementa Pinckney, murdered in the church he pastored, was being eulogized inside the senate chamber where he once served.

It insults his service to South Carolina. It insults all those who were murdered as they worshipped. It insults black and white citizens of the state alike, and it must come down.

It’s a small gesture and not a salve for all that is wrong, but it might begin a process of racial healing that is much needed right now.

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The “General Lee” Commercial: An iconic car is missing its battle flag, but is anyone fooled?

The General Lee in Die-Cast.
The General Lee in Die-Cast.

During the 1970s, The Dukes of Hazzard was one of the most popular shows on American television, and while Bo and Luke Duke (played by John Schneider and Tom Wopat, respectively) were technically the stars of the show, the real star was their car.  The 1969 orange Dodge Charger sped through the back roads of Georgia, leaping over hay bales, creeks, or other cars, nearly always getting “the boys” out of a jam. It was one of the most iconic vehicles ever to hit the small screen and its name was “the General Lee,” a nod to the most beloved of white Southern heroes, Robert E. Lee.   And emblazoned on the roof was a large Confederate battle flag.

Well, no more.

In a new commercial for Autotrader.com, the “Duke boys” are back and so is their car.  They are driving the hell out of that Dodge Charger to escape “the law,” but the car can’t seem to outrun these new police vehicles, so Luke pulls out his phone to search for a newer, faster, car on Autotrader.com.

But something is obviously missing.  The “General Lee” has been stripped of its battle flag–at least the camera doesn’t allow you to see it. And the commercial lets us know that Autotrader ad execs also know that even while they wanted to use such an iconic car to advertise their business, that flag is a divisive symbol.

Who is their target audience for this commercial? According to an article on Bulldog Reporter, a website for public relations professionals, the commercial uses nostalgia to draw in people who, when they were kids, were tuned into The Dukes of Hazzard.  I get that. They are also targeting consumers who like muscle cars. I get that, too.  Yet, the article says nothing about the absence of the flag, which they’d just as soon not draw attention to.

In a separate Autotrader article, the writer tells the story of a how former NBA player, Jalen Rose, owned one of the many “General Lee” cars that exist.  Rose, an African American, planned to sell the car at auction.  As the article points out, he removed the flag “for obvious reasons.”  It seems as though Autotrader doesn’t really want to discuss what those reasons are although, to save face, it does want you to know that at least one black man owned one of these cars.

So, we might think Autotrader was smart enough not to allow its brand to be tarnished by the battle flag, but has the company really fooled anyone?

Just as the car is associated with the television show, the battle flag is associated with the car–as well as having some unsavory historical ties to slavery and segregation.  Fans of the show are unlikely to appreciate that the flag is hidden from view, while those who know its place in pop culture–and history–recognize that it’s gone missing.

And none of us are fools.