On June 15, two days before the anniversary of the Emanuel AME Church shooting, the S.C. Secessionist Party decided to use the Folly Boat as the canvas for a series of Confederate flag paintings. They believe the removal of that flag from government spaces is an attack on Southern history.
As a darker-skinned, first-generation American, I can only imagine the oppression that white Southerners experience in South Carolina. I cannot comprehend the injustice of governments not flying a symbol of oppression in the face of the oppressed. Living with one of the most common Middle-Eastern names in a world where “terrorism” and “shootings” are defined ethnically, I’m clueless.
I’m not alone in my ignorance. The entire black community can’t relate either. Philando Castile’s death proved to be just another case of a black man guilty of being black. YouTube and Facebook videos of minorities being abused and killed are just entertainment. Thank you, Secessionists, for reminding us that the struggle of minorities in America is nothing compared to that of the white Southerner who has to see the Confederate battle flag, a symbol that has accompanied racially motivated hate crimes for decades, removed from government properties. How will minorities remember that we are inferior?
As the S.C. Secessionists claim an interest in history, July 16 presents a great opportunity to add something different to the discussion. July 16 is the date the 54th Massachusetts Infantry engaged in the Battle of Grimball’s Landing during the Civil War in what later became the Sol Legare community near Folly Beach. This is relevant for a few reasons.
First, the 54th was the first African-American fighting unit of the Civil War, made more famous by the movie Glory. Additionally, the soldiers fought a battle near Sol Legare Road, which is made even more relevant in that the Folly Boat is only about 750 feet from that road. Many residents of Sol Legare are descended from freed slaves. The community survived by leaning and depending on each other. It was a true commune. Finally, the Folly Boat actually belonged to members of the Sol Legare community before it got washed away by Hurricane Hugo, a natural disaster that required a large communal effort to recover.
So the divisive nature of the Confederate flag, and racism, stands in great contrast to the history of that community. The Folly Boat happens to be conveniently located at Sol Legare, so it is easy to make an argument against the Confederate flag there. But the racism attached to that flag over the course of 170 years of hate crimes and murder makes public displays of that flag utterly disrespectful. At best, it is a complete ignorance of the battle that minorities continue to face just to be recognized as equal human beings to white men. What a sadness that this must be explained!
Southern history is not being erased. The fact that nine black Christians had to be executed by a white supremacist who flaunted the Confederate flag in order for it to be taken down at the S.C. Statehouse in 2015 suggests that we are not only well aware of Southern history, but that we continue to walk knee deep in the inequality that flag has come to epitomize. It is the reason Philando Castile will be just one more legal murder in the popular “all lives matter” mentality.
We are not stupid. We know that many people honorably died on each side of the Civil War. We know that not all Confederate soldiers were racist. We don’t need to see a Confederate flag in our face any more than a Jew needs to see a Swastika to know not all 1940s Germans were evil. Those who must fly that flag are the reason society struggles to appreciate the true history and actual politics of the Civil War. We don’t have time to appreciate it because you can’t stop screaming “heritage, not hate.”
The public removal of the Confederate battle flag suggests a recognition that the symbol, in addition to simple Southern heritage, is very much about racism. Dylann Roof was not unique in his love for that flag. Secessionists realize the terror that symbol has been associated with for minorities since the 1800s. That flag cannot be redeemed. To ignore the more socially obvious definitions of that flag that represents hate is to joyfully walk past a person being beaten to death, a woman being raped, or a child being sold because of the color of their skin.
Equality should not be a “liberal” pillar. It should be a common goal for all people. But I look around and see the flags painted on the Edge of America with purpose. I see Philando Castile being killed, over and over again, and receiving no justice because he was black. How many African Americans have been murdered in horrific ways beneath the Confederate battle flag? If there has been progress, it seems hard to measure at times. But I also see a plethora of colors fighting the good fight. I know there has been progress and I realize a lot of people still love.
We’re not erasing history. We’re keeping it from being whitewashed. I suppose we’ll just keep fighting the terrorism … as the oppressed in America have done since 1492.