After the murder of nine people in a Charleston church by Dylann Roof, there have been calls for the removal of the Confederate flag and symbols from state houses, license plates and universities. To many people like myself, it's puzzling this wasn't done long ago. Indeed, many times, these symbols were erected during the civil rights movement, as was the case in 1962 with the state house in South Carolina. I ask myself: How can one not view this as explicitly demeaning and racist?
It's difficult to comprehend, let alone surrender to the notion that people would support a symbol so explicitly hateful. But that's the truth. No matter how much supporters of the Confederate flag contend it is not a sign of our oppressive and disgraceful history, it is.
The flag represents many things. Mostly it represents issues we like to say are no longer relevant. Slavery. Bigotry. Inequality. For the latter two, many claim that these are issues of the past. How can they be? This sign of prejudice flies in the face of all those who seek equality, mounted on the buildings of our government that is supposed to represent us. For African-Americans and non-black allies alike, this is unacceptable.
The truth is this: The Confederate flag represents more than slavery and bigotry and inequality. It represents a diplomacy that our mostly Caucasian government that opposed slavery in the north has had with the former slave-holding states of the south.
Whether we want to admit it or not, liberal states have been complicit in letting this despicable practice endure; white Americans across this country have either been ignorant to this fact or merely let it continue unabated. Ignorance or leniency or compliance -- that sounds like letting a wrongdoing happen and simply doing nothing. In the criminal sense, we would be charged and be just as liable.
Why don't we consider ourselves as guilty? Many would contend that I, like many others, am simply perpetuating the standard of "white guilt" -- allowing myself to feel culpable for past wrongdoings that I "have nothing to do with."
My answer? Take responsibility. These aren't past injustices. These are crimes against the American people that are committed today; crimes committed by our people and our government. And many have stood by -- myself included -- and thought we were doing enough.
We are in the hundred-and-fiftieth year since the Civil War ended. We are fifty-one years past the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a monumental law that can be credited with much of the transformation we see today. But I will no longer allow myself to believe that simply because we have laws that say we are equal -- that merely because we have rhetoric that says we are equal -- that we are in fact equal.
Let's take a lesson from history: History is never completely of the past.