Steve Chapman on South Carolina and the Confederate Flag


Credit: Jason Lander / photo on flickr

In 2015, anyone displaying the Confederate flag knows what it means to viewers, particularly black ones. It's an expression of hostility, not only toward black people, but to broader ideals of how the nation should come to terms with the legacy of racism. It's a gesture of defiance by many whites who feel victimized by the growing visibility and influence of minorities. It's a giant middle finger, aimed at anyone who would find it offensive. 

In a free society, expression of that sort is protected. So it's not surprising to know that the flag can be seen in many places in the South. But it is jarring to be reminded that it still flies at the state Capitol of South Carolina. There, it's justified as a tribute to the state's Civil War heritage and history. 

Except it's not, really, Steve Chapman explains. The flag didn't fly over the state Capitol until the early 1960s, and it was revived in direct reaction to the civil rights movement. It was a token of whites' attachment to segregation.