As the country mourns the loss of nine black men and women shot in a senseless rampage in South Carolina last week, it has been argued that 21-year-old Dylann Roof, the suspect in the massacre, is simply a crazy man with a gun who went on a shooting spree. There is this idea that just because there are racists — Roof said he had hoped his actions would lead to a race war — it’s not those people we should fear, but rather the few unstable that will kill. That argument is pretty clear cut, but also preposterous. We as a civilized nation somehow think it’s OK to keep ignoring, if not perpetuating, this idea of inequality as some right as an American until innocent people are murdered? Because we have condoned intolerance, ignorance and indifference for so long, we have allowed a dangerous idea to become some sort of accepted standard that others use as a reason to hurt, murder, destroy other lives. Perhaps, though, these innocent people didn’t die in vain, with public outcry against racism, bigotry, hate crimes, hitting maximum levels.
While the root of the problem is a cultural mindset, over the last week, South Carolina legislators as well as various retailers, including Amazon, eBay, Sears and Walmart, have focused on the Confederate flag and the symbolism behind it. It’s stomach churning to read what that flag stands for.
In Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens’ 1861 “Corner Stone Speech,” he explains it:
“… 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.”
Roof is pictured burning the American flag while waving the Confederate flag on his social media page. His activities are emblematic of white supremacy. There is no question about it. But the Confederate flag has always had its roots in racism. Why did it take the deaths of these innocent people to change the status quo? Why would there be any pride in this arrogant and twisted perspective? There is no excuse for ignorance in the Information Age; there is no reason for condoning intolerance. Bad traditions should not be acceptable. We should be ashamed that these people had to die to confront this issue. Worse, the South Carolina legislators voted this week just to discuss taking down the Confederate flag on state grounds? Thankfully, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, in a rather quick about face, ordered without further discussion the removal of the Confederate flag. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley followed suit the next day. The aforementioned retail giants have also shut down the sale of Confederate flags.
While Ventura County residents remain insulated from the kind of hate, ethnic diversity and cultural differences that occur elsewhere across the country, it doesn’t mean that we too should remain indifferent. Acceptance, love, education, prosperity, humanity, the fragility of life, those are the ideas we should be perpetuating, not twisted traditions that clearly shame others without cause.