July 10 marked the two-year anniversary of the decision to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.
The bill was signed by then-governor Nikki Haley in the wake of the shooting of nine black church attendees by a white supremacist. Still angry about the removal of the flag, the South Carolina Secessionist Party held a rally Monday where for a day, they returned the flag to the Statehouse grounds.
However, there is the reality that this group and many other southerners have to face: The removal of the flag was long overdue, and it should have never been flown at the Statehouse to start with.
You see, the flag was not flown at the capitol during the Civil War or even immediately following it in the Reconstruction era. It did not fly from the Statehouse until 1961. Some say it was as a centennial mark of the Civil War, but really, the raising of the flag represented Southern defiance of the Civil Rights movement. Raising the flag wasn’t about preserving heritage — it was about trying to preserve the institutionalized racism that had become a foundation of Southern lifestyle.
We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it to make a brighter future. That is something else that groups like the Secessionist Party need to realize. There is a difference between preservation and celebration. Are the Civil War and the Confederacy part of American history? Absolutely, and therefore we should still learn about them.
But we can educate ourselves about the Civil War without celebrating those who were on the wrong side of history. And that’s what viewing the past through a stark reality instead of rose-colored glasses is. When we build statues of the men who betrayed this country and fought against it to keep their slaves, what message are we sending?
Which brings me to my next point as to why the flag had to come down from the Statehouse. The Civil War was fought for slavery. It was not a war of "Northern aggression," and it was not a war for states’ rights. If the Confederacy was so concerned with states’ rights, then why did they not change their constitution to give more rights to the state? There were few changes to the constitution of the Confederacy that advanced states’ rights.
And how could it be a war of Northern aggression when the Confederates fired the first shots of the war at Union soldiers in Fort Sumter in Charleston? Sure, most of the fighting was done on Southern soil, but that was partly because the Confederate military was too weak to push it to Northern territory, with the exception of Gettysburg and several smaller battles.
The removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse was a bright spot in an otherwise dark history of racial relations in the South. It is the right of groups like the Secessionist Party to express themselves and what they consider key elements of their heritage, but what I hope is that they can relate to minorities and others who do not view the flag as a symbol of heritage, but of hatred and oppression.
Or in the very least if they choose to fly a Confederate flag, they could at least fly a white one, because that was the real last flag of the Confederacy.