On Friday, the state of South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia, placing it instead in a military museum. The flag had flown at the Capitol since 1961, when it was hoisted in honor of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and as a symbol of white segregationist resistance to the civil rights movement. Following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, in which a white supremacist gunned down nine people including a Black state senator, state lawmakers voted to remove the flag that inspired the killer.
Although this day marks the end of an era and the end to the official sanctioning of a symbol of racial oppression in the South, racism still lives throughout the nation. And the latest headlines bear this out.
For example, in Ohio, an appeals court has stopped authorities in the predominantly Black city of East Cleveland from prosecuting five white Cleveland police supervisors. The supervisors were charged with dereliction of duty in overseeing a 22-minute police chase that led to officers firing a barrage of bullets, killing a Black couple, Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Michel Brelo, one of the officers who fired 49 of the shots, had already been acquitted of involuntary manslaughter. East Cleveland is 93 percent Black, as The Huffington Post reported.
A grand jury in Cobb County, Georgia, determined that a white police officer was justified in shooting a Black man in the back outside a metro Atlanta Goodyear tire store where he worked. According to The Guardian, Smyrna police Sgt. Kenneth Owens shot Nicholas Thomas, 23, on March 24 as he drove a customer’s Maserati toward officers who were attempting to serve him with a warrant for a felony parole violation. According to the medical examiner’s report, Thomas died from a gunshot wound after a bullet entered his upper back on the right side. The bullet hit his lungs and aorta, then stopped in the left side of his upper chest. Mawuli Davis, attorney for the Thomas family, said that the fact that Thomas was shot in the back “reinforces the position we have taken that he was not a threat to the officers,” and contradicts the police claims that Thomas was driving toward the police.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Warren McClinton, who is Black, has been held in jail for six years without being convicted of a crime. A judge expressed “real concerns” that the Las Vegas man has been behind bars for so long. In 2009, a judge threw out an indictment against McClinton in a sexual assault case when prosecutors failed to introduce evidence to a grand jury. Meanwhile, the evidence that was not revealed was that DNA from two other men was found on the victim’s sheets in her North Las Vegas home, the alleged scene of the crime. Twice, prosecutors unsuccessfully secured an indictment from a grand jury. McClinton was briefly released, until prosecutors brought new charges against him, and a judge decided there was sufficient evidence to go to trial. Six years and nine lawyers later, McClinton lingered in jail as his case lingered in the system.
Finally, the YouTube video of a Philadelphia man being beaten by police went viral, prompting an investigation. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, police have opened an internal affairs investigation into the brutal beating. In April, Tyree Carroll, 22, was repeatedly punched, kicked and tasered by at least a dozen Philadelphia police officers, in a video that was posted online by Los Angeles-based blogger Jasmyne Cannick. Carroll, who was lying face down during the ordeal, was arrested and charged with drug-related offenses, assault and reckless endangerment.
So, while the Confederate flag, a symbol of the Old South, is making its exit, the old ways live on in today’s America. As the official logo of racism is removed, the actual racism remains, and Black lives still don’t matter.