Sheldon Kirshner

Take Down the Confederate Flag

On his obnoxious racist website, American mass murderer Dylann Storm Roof holds the battle flag of the Confederacy as he spits on and burns the American flag.

It’s hardly a mystery why he desecrated the Stars and Stripes as he paid respect to the Confederate flag. Roof, who cold bloodedly killed nine African-American parishioners at the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, belongs to that class of Americans who admire the Confederacy, which enslaved and oppressed blacks.

In 1861, the year the U.S. Civil War broke out, the Confederate vice-president, Alexander Stephens, said, “Our new government is founded upon … the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.” The Confederacy was thus established on the principle of white supremacy, its economy underpinned by black slavery.

But 150 years after its defeat by Unionist forces, the Confederate battle flag still speaks to the hearts and minds of Americans who identify with that lost cause. Many of these individuals, like Roof, tend to be racists. By no coincidence, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan often display the Confederate flag on marches and in rallies.

In his rambling, often incomprehensible 2,500-word manifesto, discovered after his premeditated killing spree, Roof claimed that blacks are inferior to whites. Roof, whom U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has described as “a racial jihadist,” also demanded that Jews should shed their Jewish identity.

As the Roof incident unfolded, the Confederate flag continued to fly incongruously above the grounds of the State House in South Carolina, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired. But after Roof’s murderous rampage, common decency demands that this flag — a symbol of racial hatred and oppression — should be lowered once and for all and placed where it truly belongs, in a museum.

As the national president of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, aptly said, “This symbol has to come down.”

Significantly, two prominent Republicans concur with Brooks — Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2012, and Jeb Bush, who recently declared his candidacy for that position.

It’s really a no-brainer.

In this day and age, when racial barriers are falling and Barack Obama reigns as the first black president of the United States, it’s morally unacceptable that such a signal honor should be bestowed on the Confederate flag.

Imagine what the reaction of Jews would be if the governor of one of Germany’s 16 states allowed the swastika to be hoisted atop a flag pole? That’s precisely how African Americans feel about the flag of the Confederacy. It’s an affront to their humanity and dignity, and this should be clearly understood.

Race relations in the United States have been problematic, to say the least, since the earliest days of its nationhood. And, as Democratic Party presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton said recently, “America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”

Judging by the Roof shooting, and a succession of incidents in which black men have been killed by trigger-happy police officers in towns and cities like Ferguson and Baltimore, Clinton is absolutely right.

Since race remains a deep fault line in the United States, it’s incumbent on its civic and political leaders to defuse tensions and promote mutual understanding. They can begin this important task by pressing South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of its legislature.

Some Americans, like Roof, may protest. But the majority would support the prompt removal of this odious flag.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,