Last week, a bill was signed to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds. This motion gained support following the massacre of nine Black South Carolinians at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylann Roof, a young white supremacist who openly supported the flying of the Confederate flag. The flag’s removal came with a lot of joy, as well as resistance and backlash. Furthermore, while it is important to acknowledge this event as an important moment in history, it is also important to remember that this is only a small victory in the grand scheme of South Carolina’s racist past and present. Below are some aspects that South Carolina must still address.
The Initial Raising of the Confederate Flag
The presence of the Confederate flag atop South Carolina’s Statehouse was not a remnant of the Civil War that many forgot to take down. In fact, it was raised in the 1960s. While the state has taken the opportunity to pat itself on the back for removing the flag last week, South Carolina has failed to explain the reason as to why the flag was raised in the first place. According to Eric Foner, a respected historian and a history professor at Columbia University, “the Confederate flag was only put up on top of the Statehouse in South Carolina in 1962. It was put there as a rebuke to the civil rights movement. It was not a long-standing commemoration of Southern heritage. It was a purely political act to show black people in South Carolina who was in charge.” The flag was not a symbol of “Southern pride.” It was a political tactic used to intimidate Blacks, support racism and prolong discrimination.
The State’s Pride and Glory of the Confederate Museum
While the Confederate flag has come down, the Confederate museum still stands in downtown Charleston. Operated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the museum houses the three official flags of the Confederate States of America. Though this museum communicates countless racist undertones, the citizens of South Carolina continue to praise the Confederate Museum while ignoring the horrendous realities that the Black people of the state were forced to face in the past.