By Sophia Fox-Sowell
The Confederate Flag in the American South is unraveling. Its threads are tattered, the color is fading—and yet, its supporters still believe that it looks as vibrant as the day it was sewn. They call themselves patriots, proud that their ancestors fought bravely to preserve an institution that continues to remain America’s original sin. Mississippi even has the Confederate flag incorporated into their own state flag – a constant reminder that racism in America is alive and well.
The American South is a curious place, a three ring circus – the police think they’re animal tamers, government officials pose as illusionists, and its citizens are performers. Anyone who watches the news is in the audience – patiently holding their breath while performers dance with fatal decisions.
Though not a professional circus, it certainly looks that way on the news.
The shooting at the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina earlier this year prompted the illusionists to make preparations for their most impressive act to date: the disappearance of the Confederate flag from capitol grounds.
A lot of “Ooohs,” and “Aaahhs,” erupt from the audience as they attempt to falsely accuse the lions of disobeying their commands when really it’s the tamers who haven’t been very good trainers, letting the meerkats dictate the show without a hint of reprimand for poor attitude and behavioral outbursts against their fellow felines.
Since the AME shooting, seven consecutive cases of arson at Black Churches in Georgia, North Carolina, and Alabama have been reported. Peaceful protests in Charleston outside the state capitol swell the city. Earlier this spring, the media covered the Baltimore riots, provoked after the not guilty verdict of police officers responsible for Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, which threatened to rival the destruction and chaos of the Ferguson riots after the mistrial of Darren Wilson who shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown, an incident which mimicked the shooting and subsequent trial of theTrayvon Martin case, a high profile racial incident which paralleled the LA riots following the police brutality of Rodney King in the early 1990s.
It’s difficult not to see the pattern of circus performances – not just in the South, but across America.
Mass shootings don’t even faze us anymore. Statistically, there is a mass shooting in America, every day. The only ones that go viral are the particularly disturbing shootings involving schools, minorities, or religious factions. After the incident, it’s predictable performance of media coverage, political discourse, and government legislation.
The media delves into the specifics of the event – how many people were killed, motive of the shooter, and their suggestions as to what should be done in response. The politicians respond by attacking their opposing party – usually over gun laws. Democrats cry out, “Gun laws need to be stricter,” as if presenting new evidence to the court. Republicans argue, “If they were more guns present at the scene of the crime, the victims would have been able to defend themselves, as is their constitutional right.”
The use or accessibility of guns is not the answer. If you build a swimming pool in your backyard, you dramatically increase the possibility of drowning. If you have access to a gun, you automatically increase your chances of causing a gun related accident. More guns = more shootings, either accidental or conspired. Sorry GOP, but the more guns = less violence proposal is off the table – this isn’t a Charmin commercial (But you can certainly wipe your ass with that Confederate Flag). Stricter gun laws are a step in the right direction – but still only scratches the surface of the true iceberg. These laws impose a longer waiting period, more thorough background check, and the types of guns available to consumers. I mean really, who needs access to an AK- 47 or a Tech-9 to stash in their car or in their house?
However, there’s no guarantee that the next mass murder or symbolic hate crime won’t involve a different weapon – like arson, poison, or aggressive intimidation. Stricter laws are a band-aid to cover up the real issue, hoping it will heal on its own. Sure, it may dissipate even scab over, but there will still be a scar.
Dylann Roof, the shooter responsible for the deaths of nine people including a state senator, is a 21 year old high school dropout, not even completing the tenth grade. Schools don’t just teach subjects, they edify social behavior and form ideology. Without the influence of information or peers, Roof formed his racist ideology based on his immediate surroundings – street signs that glorify fallen Confederate soldiers, white supremacy websites that instigate hate, video games that promote violence, and a media that immortalizes mass murderers by plastering their face all over the news. Dylann prepared for the performance of his life: a symbol of the disillusioned American South. It’s as if the entire republican population in the American South believes that somehow the Confederates did win the Civil War and succeeded in minor secession. Fighting to fly the Confederate flag high above those it once sought to oppress honors their ancestors by, “preserving their heritage.”
It’s time to close the circus. It’s time to end the illusions. It’s time to show the country and the world who in America are the real patriots. We cannot sit idly by while the pattern of police performances and government officials keep us distracted.
African Americans need to see more than a few laws change, because those laws which are written to protect their rights, are broken far too often and upheld much too seldom to be considered any real threat or opposition to the war brewing between the races. No, African Americans need more than words on paper, they need a symbol of hope, a symbol to show them that America is not just watching another predictable show of circus performers, but witnessing the a sign of progress—watching the weight of the Confederate flag fall off their “patriotic” shoulders and into the dirt.