The current controversy over the Confederate Battle Flag fluttering over the Capitol building in Columbia, South Carolina, is a testament to many things, the least of which is whether it is a symbol of racism.
It is a measure of how backward and repressive some areas of the country are, caught in the fractured memory of the past, a past that was, for millions, far more horrific than it was glorious.
Anyone who studies American history learns that South Carolina constantly threatened to secede from the Union. Indeed, in the classic work of French political scientist, Alexi de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, written several generations before the firing on Fort Sumter, South Carolina threatens to split from the union.
That contrariness — that sense of false bruised pride, that deep paranoia bred into the bone because of the knowledge of centuries of crimes and cruelties waged against Africans lies in the heart of the state, like a stone.
Of all the slave-built colonies of the South, none exceeded South Carolina for its huge, teeming Black population, who lived in terror.
That is the heritage of the Confederate Battle Flag, one of terror and violence in support of a system of organized theft of Black labor – in the name of white supremacy and Black subjugation.
Dylan (“Dumb & Dumber”) Roof knew – instinctively what the flag stood for, as well as the flags of Apartheid South Africa, and the former Rhodesia.
He knew what he was wearing and waving.
History has consigned the Apartheid flags and Rhodesia’s banners to the annals of a history that is past.
But, in parts of the U.S., it flaps in the breeze as if it was still 1860 – a symbol of a war against freedom.
For far too many people, the war — the Civil War — still ain’t over.