This last week was full of some truly defining moments on the historical timeline of this still young democracy we call the United States.
In the wake of two pivotal Supreme Court rulings, the Affordable Care Act being upheld and the ruling that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, there was a nationwide pause reflecting the meaning and emotion that the Confederate battle flag still stirs in The South.
When a deranged young man ends the lives of innocent people after they had welcomed him into their house of worship at a bible study and it is later discovered that he glorified symbols of oppression, like the Confederate battle flag and the flag of Apartheid South Africa, it is hard to ignore that these pieces of cloth do in fact stir emotion.
Perhaps the flag has no place flying at the South Carolina Capital, and that in fact Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama should have ordered the removal of the various flags of the Old South from the grounds of the Capital complex in Montgomery, but I wonder if those actions will really accomplish what needs to happen for our country to truly move beyond the specter of our own shameful past.
I am just not sure that removing pieces of cloth from public sights does much more than make us feel better about the fact that we “did something” rather than the fact that we should be seeking ways to reach out to our fellow man and better understand each other’s plight on a daily basis.
Several years ago, Little Rock changed the name of Confederate Boulevard to Springer Boulevard. It was, so the story goes, so that the national press would not have to pass by a large green sign with the word “Confederate” on it on the way to the dedication of the new Clinton Presidential Library. Perhaps that made some folks feel better. It was, however, a purely symbolic act. It did not change the future for the residents that live there and I would argue that the poverty that is systemic to that area of town in fact remains. Maybe we just felt better about “doing something” rather than doing nothing.
I don’t have all the answers, but I would stress that more needs to happen than just a street being renamed or flags being taken down if we are truly going to move beyond the tippy-toe approach we take, especially as Southerners, on the discussion of racial divide.
I hope before my body lays down this earthly toil, and my eyes behold the glory, that I can see a true brotherhood of mankind, and the laying aside of symbols that divide us.