What is the purpose of a flag? It is a symbol. More importantly, it is a representation of a set of values and attitudes. Flags have been used for centuries to unite and divide peoples, create distinct national identities and unite nations. They often have been the subject of controversy.
The values linked to the Confederate flag have long been questioned. The recent shooting in Charleston has caused this issue to be seriously addressed. Dylann Roof, who confessed to the shooting, was photographed holding the Confederate flag. Roof asserts that the shootings were racially-motivated, which has drawn attention to the fact that the flag could be considered as a symbol of racial hatred. This has led to debates over whether the Confederate flag should continue to be used as a symbol of the heritage of South Carolina.
South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley is calling to have the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the South Carolina State House. Discussions about this by lawmakers in South Carolina are due to commence on Monday. However, it will take more than the removal of a symbol to solve the racial hatred that is causing trouble in the USA.
The uncertainty about what the Confederate flag represents is the key issue in question. Since the creation of the symbol, it has had a variety of meanings. The flag was originally used in the American Civil War by the Confederate states. As a result, it has become a symbol of the Southern states of America and to some Americans it is viewed as a representation of their culture and heritage. However, the flag’s links with the Southern states in the Civil War means that it is associated with slave-ownership. Consequently, the flag also represents white supremacy and racism. This association with racism means that continuing to fly the flag could be a risk to the state’s reputation.
Moreover, the uncertainty of the flag’s symbolic meaning is itself a reason why it should be removed. The purpose of a flag is purely symbolic and if its symbolic meaning is uncertain, it is no longer fulfilling its purpose. Clearly, the confederate flag is unnecessary and outdated. The removal of the flag would imply a move away from the state’s traditional values, which are being called into question as it could be suggested that these ‘traditional values’ condone racism. The confederate flag does not fit into the values of the modern USA.
The removal of the flag would be significant. This is because the rejection of a symbol can be symbolic in itself. It reflects progress and change. It will convey a move away from the attitudes that the flag represented. It will show an intolerance for racial hatred in South Carolina.
The removal of the flag would be an action, a move away from the past and towards the future. It would show the world the attitude of South Carolina towards racial hatred. The removal of the flag will allow South Carolina to show the world that they are moving on, changing, making progress. Racial hatred can no longer be confused with the values of the state. If they remove the flag, they will be taking a stand against the white supremacists by disassociating themselves from a symbol of white supremacy.
However, it is not the flag that is causing the problem. It may now be obsolete, representing out-of-date values that Haley and her supporters no longer want associated with South Carolina, but the Confederate flag is not the real source of the problem.
The racial tensions in the USA are coming to the surface once again. Progress towards equality has gone so far but there still seems to be a long way to go towards complete tolerance and unity. There is hope with each new generation but they are tainted with the views of the generation before them. We can hope that one day the hatred will end, but for now all we can strive for is progress.
If South Carolina takes down the flag, it can be considered as a symbolic step forward. It would be another way that the USA shows its intolerance for racial hatred. However, we can only hope that the state’s rejection of the symbol and the values that it upholds will influence the attitudes of the people of South Carolina, the USA and the world.