Taking the Flag Down is a First Step, Not a Giant Step for Mankind

SCflagOn Friday, the Confederate flag waved a final goodbye in the wind as it was lowered from a pole on the South Carolina statehouse grounds. But it was not without ceremony and controversy. An estimated crowd of over a 1,000 people gathered at the site and cheered the removal of the flag to its final resting place in a museum. Even as the flag removal was being streamed online and broadcasted live, the commentaries of “so what” were making headway on the information highway. There is nothing wrong with presenting multiple sides of an issue. This post is not a criticism of the dissonance but an observation of how some first steps have helped to advance our understanding of the incredibly complex issue of race in America.

History has aptly documented that legislation and legal authority do not change hearts and minds.

—The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery but did not provide citizenship nor equal rights.

—The 14th Amendment granted African Americans citizenship but not civil rights

—The 15th Amendment said that race could not be used to deprive men of the ability to vote yet voter suppression continues

—The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson confirmed the principle of “Separate but Equal” and sanctioned Jim Crow laws

—The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education ordered the desegregation of public schools yet 61 years later segregation is still commonplace for many American school children

We know that neither the South Carolina legislature nor the US Supreme Court can order the end of hate. And as other states examine their collective responses to the removal of racist and offensive monuments and images around the country, the debate will continue. Some will argue it is not enough to simply remove these images that honor intolerance and bigotry. We agree. More must be done to begin the long overdue journey to eradicating racism. But it is important to remember historic first steps that help make the journey possible.

With all deliberate speed has not worked in the dismantling of discrimination. The removal of the Confederate flag is merely a first step— it is not a giant step for mankind. It is a subtle reminder that first steps make impressions in the sand, no matter how long the journey. Without Jackie Robinson’s first step, there might not have been a Hank Aaron; without Althea Gibson, no Serena Williams; without Benjamin O. Davis Sr., no Colin Powell; without Gwendolyn Brooks, no Toni Morrison; without the first African American Senator Hiram Revels, no Barack Obama. So while there will be no victory battle hymn sung for the removal of the flag, it is worth honoring a first step in the march toward justice and equality. This is as good a time as any for people of goodwill and earnest hearts to recommit themselves to achieving fairness and opportunity for all Americans and immigrants whose contributions are essential to America’s future.



  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    My father’s side of the family was not in this country during the Civil War. On my mother’s side, all four of my great-great grandfathers fought for the Confederacy and one died at Vicksburg. One owned two slaves but the other three were dirt poor tenant farmers with no slaves. It was not in the tenant farmer’s interest to protect slavery, yet they fought. Why? Because there were multiple other issues at stake beyond slavery. Assuming you studied US History and remember what you studied, you must remember this. If not, you have plenty of time for a refresher course and now is the time for it.

    You and other misguided people follow Rahm Emanuel’s mantra “don’t let a serious crisis go to waste” and seek to use a horrific act committed by one deranged youth as an excuse to eliminate all vestiges of the Confederacy. I cannot understand why you, an educated person who served as Mayor of all the citizens of the City of Atlanta, would write the above post containing the words racist, hate, offensive, intolerance and bigotry.

    By seeking to eliminate the Confederacy from memory, you promote a dangerous ignorance. As George Santayana best wrote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  2. Indeed, I remember. And I know and remember the history of the hate and racism perpetuated against my ancestors for no other reason than their race. This is complicated and I am prepared to try to understand all sides of the story, not just my personal story. Those who decide to ignore any part of the history are shortsighted and unlikely to take part in the healing of decades old wounds so needed in America.

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Thanks for your response. We have much about which we can agree.

  4. I don’t have an issue with people having pride in their heritage. My confederate battle flag issue is that the “heritage” folks let the “racist” folks take over their brand. Easy comparison is the swa sticka. It was around long before Hitler and didn’t have that negative connotation until he took over the image.

    If the heirtage folks had pushed back when the KKK et al decided they liked the confederate battle flag, maybe it wouldn’t be associated with racist acts.

    I doubt the people that put confederate flags at Ebenezer Baptist Church this morning were promoting the good “heritage” that so many folks claim.

    • Burroughston Broch says:

      Your issue is nonsense since neither you nor I can control the thoughts and actions of others. None of the “heritage” folks could have stopped “racist” folks like the first KKK in 1865. Just like no reasonable black folks can stop the “Black Lives Matter” and Nation of Islam movements today.

      • My point is that you have to push back against those who take your symbolism and use it for other purposes. Don’t control the racists, control your heritage thoughts and actions to tell the racists to stop messing up your heritage. Pushing back is sometimes as simple as using your thoughts and actions to show a group that there are 10 people that are against them, not 100.

        In business you have to push back against those who try to take your branding or patents and use it as theirs. If you don’t, the courts will not enforce laws to protect your rights if you don’t show efforts to do it beforehand.

        In everyday life you push back if someone tries to steal your identity as long as you are aware that it is happening.

        In these cases, heritage folks should also push back against racists. Otherwise, it is easy to believe that the core of the two groups is the same.

        I reject your premise that reasonable black folks want to stop the Black Lives Matter movement. I personally find it horrifying that law enforcement people are using excessive force and killing people. While this is not true of most law enforcement professionals, it is happening enough that there should be actions to push back against it.

        As for the Nation of Islam, I defer to you to be specific about your concern that reasonable black folks should take action against. I welcome you to explain your words.

        If you really believe that your thoughts and actions don’t matter:
        1) What is your frame of reference to bring up Black Lives Matter or the Nation of Islam? Their thoughts and actions have somehow left an impression on you?
        2) Why would you even reply to my comment or any blog where people may have differing opinions?