"The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy," writes The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates in a piercing essay on the history of slavery, a symbol, and the South.
[South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley deserves credit for calling for the removal of the Confederate flag. She deserves criticism for couching that removal as matter of manners. At the present moment, the effort to remove the flag is being cast as matter of politesse, a matter over which reasonable people may disagree. The flag is a "painful symbol" concedes David French. Its removal might "offer relief to those genuinely hurt," writes Ian Tuttle. "To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred," tweeted Mitt Romney. The flag has been "misappropriated by hate groups," claims South Carolina senator Tom Davis.
This mythology of manners is adopted in lieu of the mythology of the Lost Cause. But it still has the great drawback of being rooted in a lie. The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African-Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. The embarrassment is not limited to the flag, itself. The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance. A century and a half after Lincoln was killed, after 750,000 of our ancestors died, Americans still aren't quite sure why.
The martyrs: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; Myra Thompson, 59.
The early adapters: Then-Georgia Gov. Zell Miller tried to remove the "Southern Cross" of the Confederate battle flag from his state's banner in 1992. He failed. "With neither warning nor fanfare," then-Gov. Jeb Bush unilaterally removed the Confederate "Stainless Banner" from the grounds of the Florida Capitol in early 2001.