By now, everyone knows about the recent shootings in Charleston, SC. Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
What followed was another dispute over the Confederate flag that flies on the grounds of the South Carolina State House. While a vote in (the year) 2000 moved it from the top of the building to an area on the grounds, many people have wanted it removed completely.
On Monday, the flag moved one step closer to removal. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley held a press conference in which she called for the removal of the flag from the State House grounds. To be sure, this pleased many, but also outraged others who believe that the flag represents a part of South Carolina’s heritage and history.
The symbol dates back to the 1800’s, and is commonly associated with the American Civil War, which (as many will remember) was associated with property. However, what many people forget is that, back then, the property issue didn’t just include houses. It included slaves. People were considered property at that time.
Let’s fast forward to today.
Clementa Pinckney, just one of the nine victims in the Charleston shooting, was not only a reverend of the church. He was a South Carolina Senator. Jim Clyburn, who was not involved in the incident, is a U.S. Representative for the state. Both men held highly respected offices. While Rep. Clyburn continues to fight for the state, Pinckney will no longer have that opportunity.
Gov. Haley’s call for the Confederate flag’s removal is symbolic. While many of her decisions have been conservative in nature, this decision goes in another direction – that of progression. Progress, if you will.
While many are still grounded in the belief that the flag is part of their heritage, many in South Carolina are starting to think in another way. They are starting to realize and understand the other side’s views. They understand the issue of slavery that some say the flag represents, which is possibly why Gov. Haley spoke the way she did.
“For those who wish to respect the flag on private property, no one will stand in your way. But the statehouse (sic) is different. The events this past week call on us to look at this in a different way…We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer…The fact that it causes so [much] pain is enough to move it from the capitol grounds. It is, after all, a capitol that belongs to all of us.” — Gov. Nikki Haley (as quoted in The Washington Post).
While she does respect people displaying it in the homes on their own private property, she does show that she understands that the state of South Carolina is for everyone to share and enjoy. She also wants to remove anything that divides the citizen’s of the state.
Within the last two days, Mississippi has started to follow suit. They are also taking steps towards change. For anyone who doesn’t know, their state flag includes the Confederate symbol.
According to AP and ABC News, Mississippi House Leader Phillip Gunn called for the Confederate symbol to be removed from the state’s flag.
“We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn, a leader in his local Baptist church, said in a statement. “As a Christian, I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed. We need to begin having conversations about changing Mississippi’s flag.” – Phillip Gunn.
If two Republican state leaders are calling for the removal of the Confederate symbol, it may show signs that this country is truly changing. Indeed, the debate of the symbol and its meaning has been a hot topic for decades. However, in light of recent events – however tragic – maybe people are starting to change their minds about the representation of the symbol.
As a person who has friends from many different cultures, I truly hope that the divide that this symbol, and others like it, truly are removed so that we may continue on a journey of truly being united.