On June 17, Dylann Roof, 21 years old, white supremacist, killed nine African American men and women, in a bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The victims include the pastor of the church, Rev Clementa Pinckney, who was also a member of the South Carolina Senate.
Roof confessed the killings, and his motive was to start a race war.
Roof’s personal website, LastRhodesian.com, showed him burning American flag while holding the confederate battle flag.
According to the manifesto, Roof wrote, “I chose Charleston because of it is most historic city in m state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to whites in the country.”
In fact, Roof targeted the AME church because of the church’s long history of blacks struggle for freedom from slavery and suppression of Jim Crow laws. In the 60’s, the church was hub for the civil rights movements, and invited Dr Martin Luther king.
Denmark Vesey, an African Slave, who bought his freedom, established the AME church. In fact, Vesey sacrificed his own life to free enslaved Africans. In 1822, Denmark Vesey was hanged to death after he was charged plotting slave uprising, and the local authorities razed the church to the ground. But Robert Vesey, Denmark’s son rebuilt the AME church at its current location. In 1868, after an earthquake destroyed the church, the parishioners rebuilt the current church.
America had made some progress on race relations. But many African Americans still feel the vestiges of the Jim Crow laws, and the symbols of slavery and bigotry of America’s darkest history is the Confederate battle flag.
For African Americans, the Confederate battle flag represents slavery, blatant segregation, lynching, and the repression of Jim Crow era. It does not represent the values of all South Carolinians.
Moreover, the confederate battle flag has nothing to do with southern heritage, pride or the bravery of confederacy troops.
In fact, it was the Southern states that incorporated their state flags into the confederate battle flag as defiance against the supremacy clause of US constitution, and to fight hard the desegregation laws, in 50’s and 60’s, and to deprive African Americans equal rights—the birth rights of all Americans. In a free and democratic society, officials symbols—flags, license plates and national parks–belong to all South Carolinians, not only to the whites.
A symbol that represents intolerance and is offensive to many Americans should not be displayed on state capital ground.
But for political expediency, many GOP presidential candidates are using state rights to preserve the displays of the confederate battle flag in southern states. A flag that represents America’s darkest hours: rebellion, slavery and hatred.
“It shouldn’t fly there .It shouldn’t fly anywhere.” That was Hillary Clinton steadfast response on the question of the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina. Hillary Clinton called the flag “a symbol of our nation’s racist past.”
But racism still exists in our society. This is not a southern problem. It is not a Republican or Democratic problem It is an American problem. And society as whole should have to address and deal with its problems before its evil destroys the true ideals of America.
All the African Americans want to see this country to live by the words of George Washington in 1790 to the Moses Seixas of the Rhode Island Synagogue: that the United States is government “ which gives bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”
To honor the victims of Charleston massacre the confederate battle flag should be removed from all public places.
This commentary originally appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on June 27, 2015, and was written by Ali Mohamed