Two weeks ago, nine innocent African-American lives were taken by a white supremacist inside the iconic Charleston, South Carolina Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and since then, Southern Republican leaders, including Governor Nikki (Nimrita) Haley, have been called upon for the removal of the Confederate flag from Capitol grounds.
In honor of #FlashbackFriday, I want to take Brown Girl readers back to October when Gov. Haley claimed that since CEOs have not complained about the Confederate flag, there was no need to remove the flag from the S.C. Statehouse.
Haley made headlines for her decision to support the movement for the removal of the flag but did it really take nine lives to see the racial tension that is especially apparent in the American South? As recently as a few months ago, it looked like the voices of the rich and powerful mattered more to the Indian-American politician than the livelihood of minorities.
When the Confederate flag, a symbol of racism and mutiny, is still being glorified as part of the Southern heritage, it is a sign of the racial disparity that is still in effect today. Growing up in North Carolina, I have also sat through the story of how the South was tired of the North bullying them and how slavery was not a significant factor in the Civil War. I’m not here for that sob story, and I’m certainly not here to listen to another twisted version of “history” that disregards the inferior treatment of Black-Americans.
I recently heard a story of an eight-year-old girl who was whipped so badly that she died while her master was acquitted. Then there’s the story of Ruby Bridges who had the U.S. Marshals as her bodyguards…just so that she could attend a decent school. These are just some the stories of resilience and strength from an oppressed group of people. The traitors who fought against America on the grounds of slavery, and whose descendants continued to target Black Americans should not be sanctified as such. Cenk Uygur of “The Young Turks” pretty much schools anyone with that train of thought.
Essentially, what we call the Confederate flag today is actually a simplified version of the actual war flag adopted by the Dixiecrats in the late 1940s, who broke off the Democratic Party on the grounds of civil rights implementation. As for the details surrounding the South’s secession leading up to the Civil War, South Carolina was the first state to secede.
During S.C. Congressman Lawrence Keitt’s speech at the South Carolina Secession Convention in December 1860, he stated, “Our people have come to this on the question of slavery. I am willing, in that address to rest it upon that question. I think it is the great central point from which we are now proceeding, and I am not willing to divert the public attention from it.”
The heart of the matter is, discrimination continues to be shrugged off and has become even more difficult to fight against. The perspectives of minorities who feel discriminated are often silenced and/or painted as race-baiters. Until the Charleston shooting, Southern politicians ignored the Confederate flag and often deemed the flag as harmless. This is where America stands as a nation.
But one cannot expect much when leaders of minority ethnicity like Haley racially identify as White (as she did on the voter registration card in 2001), while others like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal do not identify with their Indian heritage or attempt to deny its influence.
Calling for the removal of Confederate flags from Capitol grounds is a definite change from the previous narratives. It is one that many have also scrutinized as an eyewash against other more influential factors at play including gun control and declining race relations on a national scale. As controversial as the Confederate flag is, it is clear that there is more work to be done in rebuilding racial relations across the U.S., and nothing can be done until minority politicians own the skin they’re in and stand up for the issues that matter to those who lack representation.
On that note, I bring you Papa Pope’s monologue about Confederate flag supporters.
Recently accepted into Boston University’s MS Journalism program, Karishma B. Desai freelances for the award-winning IndyWeek and was a former intern for UNC-TV (North Carolina’s PBS Affiliate). When she’s not writing articles at Starbucks, you can find her videotaping a new adventure for YouTube or interviewing inspirational people for a documentary. She is a city girl who is working towards her dreams of becoming a TV reporter focusing on health policy.