The racial wound that Michael Brown’s tragic death in Henderson Missouri had inflicted on our nation had only started to heal when it was ripped open once again by Dylan Storm Roof and his senseless rampage in a South Carolina church that left nine African-Americans dead.
And as Americans scramble to make sense of it all, it seems their collective anger has found a target;
the Confederate Flag!
Yes, my Facebook news feed has been filled with article after article rallying the nation around a frenzied response to the Charleston shooting. A response that focuses its fury on that symbolic representation of America’s slave owning days;
the ol’ Stars and Bars!
But here’s the problem…
It’s nothing but scapegoating!
The tribe is angry and harmony has been broken. There needs to be a sacrifice!
A sacrifice we can pile our anger on
A sacrifice whose death can restore balance to society.
A sacrifice to help us make sense of the senseless
A sacrifice we can blame and will act as a cathartic salve to our collective wound.
Fortunately we’ve evolved past tossing a virgin in a volcano, there are no messiahs to crucify or heretics to burn, and we’ve (mostly) progressed past accusing the foreigners and running them out of town.
So what can we do to make us feel better about ourselves over the tragedy in Charleston?
“We have to get rid of this damn flag…”
Now I understand what the flag represents and the pain it’s continued use by the State of South Carolina (and Southern states in general) causes in many Americans, particularly among African Americans.
But consider this:
The current flag of the United States can inflict just as much pain and dread. Under it’s banner (albeit with a few less stars) we stole the land of the native American inhabitants, massacred them in droves and confined the remnant to mostly worthless desert land. Their proud cultures stripped from them only to be replaced with malt liquor and casino gambling.
The same could be said of the Canadian flag, the Australian flag, and we probably shouldn’t even get started with the Union Jack whose colors waved proudly over a quarter of the world’s stolen lands in imperialistic glory.
Honestly, there probably isn’t a flag flying in the world that doesn’t have some form of blood and/ or atrocity on its hands.
The Confederate flag though no longer represents a country. Instead, for many, it represents a period of time…a point in history many Americans would rather put behind them. It probably doesn’t help that after the Civil War the Southern states actively acted as a hindrance to the civil rights movement rather than a catalyst for it. What if those self same states who are now known for Selma and Brown v. Board of Education had instead taken the lead in tearing down segregation, promoting affirmative action, and cementing voting rights for African-Americans?
Makes you wonder if then the Confederate flag would have flown proudly over the South Carolina state capitol as a symbol of hope and reconciliation.
Alas though, it was a path not taken.
But when in a moment of anger and frustration we vent our collective blame on a scapegoat it keeps us from having the real dialogue about the real issues that seem to keep producing the Dylann Roof’s in our society.
Should South Carolina dump the Confederate flag from it’s State Capitol?
But not now, and not like this…