In the rare instance that you have been completely disconnected from all forms of print, electronic, and social media, or by chance you are an interstellar traveler that has been out of this universe for an extended period of time, a major shift has occurred in the world of racial relations in America in the past week. A tragic murder of 9 African Americans in South Carolina, committed by a man with obviously racially charged motivations (despite what the media tries to tell you) has etched its chapter in the book that continues to pen itself.
But why is South Carolina special? What make Charleston so different from Ferguson, and Cleveland, and New York City, and Baltimore. Why has the discussion taken such a drastic turn now from any other stop on the "Black Lives Matter" movement? Was it the volume? Was it the heinous nature of the atrocity? No. What differentiates Charleston from the others is that for the first time in a long time, the media has been forced to pull back the curtain on the REAL South.
Anyone that has spent an extended period of time in the South can attest to the fact that, in its entirety, the South is just... different. We talk different. We walk different. Our food is seasoned different. The weather is different. And oh yea, by the way, the racism looks different. In the South, there are "No Fly Zones" for Negros. That's right, in the year 2015 there are still entire cities Blacks refuse to go in fear of racism. Klan rallies are, to this day, routinely held in town squares in every state in the South and escorted and protected by local police. Racist are your police officers, your doctors, your teachers, and your business owners. Mother Emmanuel AME is not the first church to be the target of racially motivated violence in the South, and, sorry to say, there is a good possibility that it will not be the last. These were not the first racially motivated killings in the South this year, and, sorry to say, this, too, has a very high likelihood not to be the last occurrence. In the South, racism stares you directly in your face and constantly reminds you its here for the long haul. It always has been. Always will be.
The overwhelming response to the killings in Charleston has been beautiful. As with a vast majority of other events in recent history, people of all nationalities have banded together both in support of the victims and in a united call for action. In each movement, sights have been set on specific faces of institutional racism. The police. The legal system. The target this time: The Confederate Flag.
Another thing that is different about the South is the fact that 'round these parts, there isn't one flag... there are two. To Southerners, the Confederate Flag is as readily identifiable as the Betsy Ross rendition. It's everywhere. Rather its strapped to both windows or attached to a license plate on a jacked up Chevy, adorned on a belt buckle, strapped across pasty breast at a southern lake party, or waved proudly at a country music concert every time "Sweet Home Alabama" is played, the Confederate "stars and stripes" is embedded in the Caucasian South's DNA. So much so, South Carolina, for over 50 years, flew the Confederate Flag alongside the American Flag in a direct response to Civil Rights Laws in the 1960's. It is a banner of hatred, an inherent symbol of Southern racism, and protesters want it removed.
In the South, there are many symbols of racism. The hooded man on horseback. The burning cross. The noose strung from a tree. No mention of ending these symbolic identifiers of racism. The Confederate Flag is an easy target, and regretfully one of opportunity born out of tragedy. Does the flag need to go? ABSOLUTELY. For years it served as a State-sanctioned approval of a war the South picked in order to maintain slavery as an institution. But will that solve the problem?
What's problematic with the demand to remove the Confederate Flag is that it furthers a tendency seek symbolic change to a very real problem. The Civil Rights movement had very tangible, very REAL demands, with very REAL action being taken, and very REAL results. Desegregate the buses, schools, and lunch counters. Give minorities the right to vote. Actual action, not symbolic remedies. Today's racism is very REAL, with REAL fixes that need to be made. From education, to housing, to the legal system, to the policing system, to voting rights, we are in dire need for tangible solutions. However, the focus always seems to focus on easing the signs of the disease without actually curing the body. We are too invested in placebo solutions.
Removing the Confederate Flag will not solve racism any more than putting body cams on cops will stop unarmed African Americans from being killed in cold blood or removing "nigger" from the American linguistic repertoire will make lives better for African Americans. As a matter of fact, placebo fixes often perpetuate the growth of whats ailing society in the first place. Body cameras exposed how systemic the flaws in the policing are by showing us what gets covered up in police reports, what gets investigated, how police get the benefit of the doubt, how unwilling prosecutors are to indict and convict officers, and in the case of NYC how far police are willing to go when someone goes against the "Code".
Currently retail outlets such as Walmart, Amazon, and eBay are lining up to proclaim that they will end the sales of Confederate flags. This will only have a counterproductive outcome. Let's take a step back and think about what happens when one tries to take something away from right-wing conservatives: religion... guns. Removing the Confederate Flag will only increase the intrinsic value of the flag itself. The flag will essentially evolve into a martyr of the Southern Republic and a sign of government overreach. The volume of sighting will increase, not decrease. As we speak, rednecks across the South are flocking to stores to rack up on as many Confederate relics as they can get their hands on before "Obama takes them away"... just like he took their guns and religion.
There is a reason REPUBLICAN politicians are lining up in South Carolina demanding the removal of the Confederate Flag. It's an easy fix. Take it down, they think we go away. Problem averted. Body cameras on police... another quick fix. Addressing the REAL problems of institutional racism is another story. They are silent on the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, they are silent on the destruction of inner city school systems, they are silent on gentrification, they are silent on every REAL issue faced by minorities in America. As long as we continue to focus on symbolic change rather than tangible solutions, we are also silent.