The campaign to ban the confederate flag is a joke when you consider that hate crimes don't legally exist in South Carolina

It would be a step forward, but acts of white terrorism will only continue until the law protects minorities and gun laws are reformed

Nash Riggins
Wednesday 24 June 2015 10:00
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The Confederate Flag flies over the Capitol in South Carolina
The Confederate Flag flies over the Capitol in South Carolina

If American politicians hate anything, it’s working together to promote positive change within society. Yet in the wake of last week’s horrific shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

What sort of change are they demanding, you ask? Improved gun control measures? Much-needed amendments to archaic, discriminatory legislature? Of course not. Instead, a bipartisan movement is brewing to remove the Confederate flag from South Carolina’s government buildings. What a farce.

This isn't to discount the immensity of this symbolic gesture. The rebel flag has been flying over the heads of black southerners for over 150 years – a constant reminder that South Carolina’s founders would have rather seen ordinary people wrapped in chains than live alongside their white neighbours. Its presence has always been an insult to the unspeakable pain and suffering that helped build colonial America, and today it remains an emblem of the deep-rooted, institutional racism that continues to plague every inch of modern society.

For that reason alone, the Confederate flag should have been put to the torch immediately after the American Civil War – and so this overdue call to remove it is a big step forward. But it’s just not big enough.

It shouldn’t have taken an unimaginably horrific hate crime to shame Americans into shelving a banner for racial inequality. It’s something lawmakers should have instinctively done about 150 years ago. What on earth is it supposed to achieve in this day and age?

The Confederate Flag flies over the Capitol in South Carolina

Lawmakers should instead work to address the fact that South Carolina still doesn’t have any laws to protect its citizens against hate crimes. It’s one of just five US states in which you can assault a person based solely upon the colour of their skin without earning a felony charge. That means substantially less prison time and lower fines. In fact, South Carolina lawmakers aren’t even allowed to launch a hate crime investigation into last week’s shooting – because in the eyes of the state’s legislative code, crimes motivated by race don't exist.

That seems a bit off in a state that boasts 19 recognised hate groups.

Lawmakers could also spend a little less time talking about flags and a lot more thinking about how painfully simple it is for those hate groups to purchase deadly weapons. When it comes to gun control, this delusional notion seems to guide the American public, arguing: “Why take away my rights? I'm not the crazy one, here.”

As a result, far too many people would rather defend their Constitutional entitlement to visit Uncle John's farm twice a year and unload a box of shotgun shells than prevent a prayer group from being murdered in cold blood. It’s complete and utter madness, and it’s time to stop feigning surprise every time a bus of schoolchildren or a group of worshipers are shot and killed.

We know exactly why these atrocities are happening – so if American politicians want to talk progress, let’s talk progress.

Let’s do something to tackle the fact that a 21-year-old racist terrorist can get his hands on a death machine in the blink of an eye. Let’s address the elephant in the room and stop kidding ourselves into thinking America is a nation guided by racial equality. Let’s stop busying ourselves addressing one, minor symptom of a wider national illness, and do something – anything – that can help society move forward.

Don’t get me wrong – Americans should take immense pride in the fact that their lawmakers are finally working to eradicate an everyday symbol of racial hatred. It’s sick, and it’s got to go. But you know what? They should also bear in mind that flags don’t shoot people. Racists with easy access to firearms shoot people.

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