Flags don’t kill people

Image via radiolive.co.nz

Tearing down the Confederate flag is the smallest step in ending hate

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. July 7, 2015

Unless you tie a flag around someone’s throat and choke the person out, flags are simply a symbol—harmless. Alter a swastika slightly and you’ll have the symbol for Buddhism. Banning the Confederate flag is the easiest thing to do as a reaction to the Charleston church shooting in South Carolina. It’s the easiest way to say we disagree with discrimination and murder. But such an act will not temper the hate brewing in so many.

The Confederate flag is a different symbol for different people. Some believe it represents Southern heritage, Dixie pride, the Dukes of Hazards, etc. For others, it’s not unlike the swastika; it represents white supremacy, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-confederates. So, is the Confederate flag racist? How isn’t it? Are there any ethnic people in South Carolina pissed that the flag is being banned from big brand retailers and removed from government buildings? My guess is few are.

I’ll admit, what I understand of the southern region of the United States has been received secondhand through books, cinema, and television. Clearly I don’t know what it’s like to walk down the street and receive Southern hospitality, and you can understand how I—someone clearly not white—may be wary to step into a room full of Confederate flags. I can’t help feeling that people who defend guns and the Confederate flags would not defend you or me with the same amount of passion.

While I believe the flag is indeed a symbol for slavery, therefore racism, I’m not convinced that banning it will accomplish much in the long run. Flags can burn, but ideas can pass on like viruses. It’s a lame reflex reaction that allows those in charge to feel a little self-righteous, patting each other on the back as if they themselves have abolished slavery. No, Apple, you have not ended racism by eliminating all American Civil War games from your app catalogue. No, Wal-Mart, you are not heroic for taking Confederate flags off your shelves.

Flags are not the real problem. Flags don’t kill people, guns do and murderers do. Malicious groups and backward-thinking education systems kill people. The Confederate flag did not motivate 21-year-old Dylann Roof to enter that church on a Wednesday evening in June and kill nine people while severely injuring one. The reason was much more deeply rooted than a flag.

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