To be clear, I am a proponent of eradicating the Confederate flag from public places and public spaces. It doesn’t take a degree in vexillology to understand that flags are symbolic representations of places, people or things, whether historic or modern. No one is debating whether hate groups in America–particularly anti-anyone-other-than-white-Christians–have taken comfort by wrapping themselves in the historical significance of the Confederate flag. No one.
Those who argue that the Confederate flag is part of their history are correct. Indeed, the Confederate flag is part of every American’s history. But the Confederate states lost that war–a fact that remains troubling to some. My first job out of law school was at a well-respected good-sized firm in Richmond, Virginia. I struggled living in Richmond for many reasons, not the least of which was because I was reminded it was the capital of the Confederacy on a daily basis. Indeed, attorneys at the firm proudly hung the Confederate flag in their offices next to their framed law school diplomas. For a young Asian attorney–one of only a handful of non-white professionals–the patent symbolism was discomfiting, unnerving and startling. Then–as now–I cannot understand why anyone would embrace the Confederate flag.
Media coverage over the presence of the Confederate flag in Charleston, South Carolina, is constant and as in-depth as the topic allows, befitting the debate of more meaningful, more serious and more complex issues facing our country. Perhaps I’m daft, but I cannot understand the attention this issue is getting. Nine people were shot and killed and our country focuses on the presence of the Confederate flag. Perhaps the abundance of coverage is a result of reporter fatigue from covering such shootings. Or perhaps it is because journalists understand the futility of reporting on potential gun control legislation after a mass killing. Indeed, if the shooting of 20 elementary school children couldn’t mobilize our government to pass reasonable gun control laws with urgency, it is unlikely anything will.
The irony is that a flag–Confederate or otherwise–never killed anyone.