It is tragic that in order to remove from South Carolina public life the Confederate flag, which represents the slavery era in the South, a racist killing of African Americans had to happen at a church historically significant for its role in the civil rights struggle. Intolerance towards the symbol may be the only positive thing the massacre brought.
The suspect Dylann Roof is a racist who admires the flag and those “Southern values” nostalgic of an era where whites had a special status guaranteed, and blacks were trafficked like objects, enslaved to move the economy forward and lynched in public at the first suspicion of malfeasance. Today there are still those who claim to feel the pain and humiliation of the Southern culture’s defeat in the Civil War.
Regrettably, there are many people and voters who, without going to the extreme of a massacre, share this longing without caring for its terrible meaning for African Americans. Conservative politicians always preferred to ignore the racism behind the symbols, rather than offend those voters. Not anymore; something has changed.
The excellent decision of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol is an acknowledgement that the symbol represents a perverse ideology, not some antebellum Southern romanticism. This seems to have created a liberating feeling among some politicians. Others, like those with Republican presidential aspirations, keep defending the racist symbol under the tired federalist argument of the states’ rights.
On the other hand, the fact that Walmart, Sears and eBay are removing products bearing the symbol from their shelves is a signal that those killings have struck a chord like no other event had done before. The rebuke of big corporations also marks a significant turn.
This does not mean that the flag will disappear, because it is a part of History that needs to be known. Every year the bloody Civil War battles are recreated for the tourists as a way to deal with a tragic chapter that divided Americans. Taking down the Confederate flag once and for all is another step towards national reconciliation.