The Daily Parker

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Good riddance to a racist symbol

The Republican Governor of South Carolina today ordered the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol. Josh Marshall lauds the (overdue) move:

[I]t is important to note that the incorporation of the Confederate battle flag into Southern state flags and flying it at capitol buildings isn't some relic of the post-Civil War days. It's quite new. In most cases it goes back a little over 50 years to the 1950s and early 1960s. In other words, the prominent public display of the flag (if not the popularity of the flag itself, though partly that too) doesn't commemorate the Civil War or the Confederacy, it was the emblem of the 'massive resistance' movement of the 1950s and 1960s in which white Southern state government sought to defy the federal government's effort to force desegration, black enfranchisement and formal legal and political equality for African-Americans on the South.

So why did [Sunday's] massacre, horrific as it is, lead - apparently - to the complete collapse of support for flying the Confederate battle flag? It's certainly not that Southern state governments are less conservative or Republican than they were 10 or 15 years ago. Far from it. And more specifically and relevantly, nor are they more progressive on race issues than a decade a more ago. So why? At a basic level, I'm not totally sure, thus my surprise. At some level, of course, it is the sheer horror of Dylann Roof's crime, his totally unambiguous motivation and his open use of the flag's symbolism. There's also a herd affect. Once Nicki Haley decided it was time to bring down the flag it probably became much, much harder for comparable leaders in other states to hold out. But neither explanation, to my mind, really captures the sea change. The best explanation I can think of is one David Kurtz suggested, which is generational. A lot of people who were alive and politically active are no longer with us. And it certainly stands to reason that that generational cohort would have been the staunchest in its resistance to the change.

The United States put down the pro-slavery rebellion 150 years ago at the cost of 3 million American lives. I'm glad the South is finally taking a small step towards adulthood.

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