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FLAG OF OUR FATHERS: Let It Burn

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NPR: In December 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union just months after Abraham Lincoln, from the anti-slavery Republican Party, was elected president. In April 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C. Ten other states would eventually follow South Carolina in secession, forming the Confederate States of America. However, of the three flags the Confederacy would go on to adopt, none are the Confederate flag that is traditionally recognized today. The “Stars and Bars” flag, currently the subject of controversy, was actually the battle flag of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. After the war ended, the symbol became a source of Southern pride and heritage, as well as a remembrance of Confederate soldiers who died in battle. But as racism and segregation gripped the nation in the century following, it became a divisive and violent emblem of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist groups. It was also the symbol of the States’ Rights Democratic Party, or “Dixiecrats,” that formed in 1948 to oppose civil-rights platforms of the Democratic Party. MORE

THE ATLANTIC: Dylann Roof walked into a Charleston church, sat for an hour, and then killed nine people. Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white COnfederateFlagSkullsupremacy which long animated his state nor from its potent symbol—the Confederate flag. Visitors to Charleston have long been treated to South Carolina’s attempt to clean its history and depict its secession as something other than a war to guarantee the enslavement of the majority of its residents. This notion is belied by any serious interrogation of the Civil War and the primary documents of its instigators. Yet the Confederate battle flag—the flag of Dylann Roof—still flies on the Capitol grounds in Columbia.

The Confederate flag’s defenders often claim it represents “heritage not hate.” I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition to this act—it endorses it. That the Confederate flag is the symbol of of white supremacists is evidenced by the very words of those who birthed it:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth…

This moral truth—“that the negro is not equal to the white man”—is exactly what animated Dylann Roof. More than any individual actor, in recent history, Roof honored his flag in exactly COnfederateFlagSkullthe manner it always demanded—with human sacrifice. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Those who have defended keeping the Confederate flag flying at the Capitol have often described it as merely a commemoration to the Civil War dead. But as the writer K. Michael Prince documents in “Rally ’Round the Flag, Boys!,” flags were not used in this way at the Confederate memorial on the Capitol grounds in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Only in later decades was the flag introduced — and steadily elevated in importance — to bolster the idea of white supremacy at moments when South Carolina’s Jim Crow-era government came under federal pressure to allow black citizens even nominal civil rights. Hence, the Confederate battle flag was displayed in the South Carolina State House in 1938, after angry Southerners in Congress managed to defeat a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime. They saw that law as an intrusion on what was often called “the Southern way of life.” The flag was brought into the State Senate two years after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. The flag was quietly moved up to a position of pride on the dome on the Capitol in 1962, after President John F. Kennedy called on Congress to end poll taxes and literacy tests for voting and the Supreme Court struck down segregation in public transportation. By this time, of course, the flag had been closely associated with racial tyranny. MORE

CNN: Now that the so-called Stars and Bars is linked to last week’s church massacre in Charleston, S.C., some flag manufacturers are having a serious discussion about whether they should continue to make it. “We don’t want to cause someone continued pain because what it represents,” said Reggie Vanden Bosch, president of the Flag Manufacturers COnfederateFlagSkullAssociation of America in Wayne, Pa. “We’ll definitely spend time as an industry group discussing that.” The group represents about 38 flag manufacturers and retailers. Vanden Bosch is also vice president of sales for Valley Forge Flag, a 133-year-old maker of flags from more than 200 countries, states, territories, and also branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. He said sales of the Confederate flag comprise a “miniscule” part of his overall business. MORE

THE COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS:
Again, we utterly condemn Roof’s despicable killings, but they do not detract in the slightest from the legitimacy of some of the positions he has expressed.” The council’s site also has a statement from the organization’s president, Earl Holt III, saying, “The CofCC is hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website.” MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Many of the themes promoted on the council’s website resonate through an online manifesto apparently written by Dylann Roof, who has been charged in the killings last week in Charleston. The manifesto traced the motivation for the shootings to a twisted epiphany: a Google search that led to the council’s website, where “pages upon pages of brutal black on White murders” were tallied and described. “I have never been the same since that day,” the manifesto attributed to Mr. Roof said. MORE

THE ATLANTIC: The manifesto is wrong on the facts. A 2014 report by the Sentencing Project found that the media empirically tend to over-report crimes with black offenders and white victims. But the group he cited, the Council of Conservative Citizens, has spent a great deal of effort trying to convince people that black-on-white crime is a real menace. (Journalists are often bombarded with publicity materials for White Girl Bleed COnfederateFlagSkulla Lot, a book purporting to reveal the truth about black-on-white crime.) MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: Since it rose in the 1980s from the ashes of the old and unabashedly racist White Citizens’ Councils, the Council of Conservative Citizens has drifted in and out of notoriety. But it is clearly back in: Last weekend, three Republican presidential candidates — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky — announced that they were returning or giving away donations from the council’s president, Earl Holt III.

Since 2011, Mr. Holt has also contributed at least $3,500 to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who is expected to run for president. A spokesman for Mr. Walker said he would donate the money to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which is helping families of the Charleston massacre. All told, Mr. Holt, who did not return calls for comment, has given at least $57,000 to Republican candidates for federal and state offices. But those contributions, first reported by The Guardian, tell only part of the story of the council’s ties to Southern Republican officeholders. In the 1990s, the council counted influential Republican friends from town halls to the halls of Congress. Among those who have addressed its meetings were Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, at one time the Senate majority leader; Haley Barbour, a former national Republican chairman who was campaigning for governor in Mississippi at the time; and Mike Huckabee, the presidential candidate who was then Arkansas’ lieutenant governor.

More recently, Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina dropped a council official in her state, Roan Garcia-Quintana, from her re-election campaign’s advisory committee in 2013 after his COnfederateFlagSkullties to the group became public. In 1999, a cascade of reports linking Mr. Lott and other prominent Republicans to the council led the party’s national chairman, Jim Nicholson, to urge all Republicans belonging to the group to quit the organization, calling it racist. MORE

NPR: A two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate is required to remove the flag. However, there may be a workaround, and the law itself could be changed by a simple majority. The Post & Courier has a running tally of state lawmakers and how they stand on the issue. At her press conference, Haley said if the legislature doesn’t finish its session by acting to remove the flag, she will call an additional session. Also under the 2000 compromise: lowering the flag requires approval of the legislature, which is why even after Haley ordered the American and South Carolina flags ordered to half staff following last Wednesday’s massacre, the Confederate flag remained at full staff. MORE

THE POST & COURIER: The Post and Courier has reached out to lawmakers across South Carolina to find out where they stand on removing the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds. This is a work in progress, and we encourage you to keep checking back as we reach more legislators and update our results. We encourage any lawmakers reading this to get in touch with us and weigh in with their thoughts. We began polling lawmakers at about 9:00 am Monday, and have been updating this page with responses as we receive them. The collection of responses remains on-going. The page will update in real-time, no need to refresh. MORE

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