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Dylann Roof--nurtured by legacy of hateful white supremacy


Some neighbors in our predominantly white western rural Massachusetts town of Williamsburg have hoisted the Confederate battle flag up their flag pole and displayed it on the wall of their business.

Why would some Yankee from rural western Massachusetts choose to fly this symbol of divisiveness and hatred? And why now, after it has been further tarnished by the egregious hate crimes committed in South Carolina and the resurgence of church burnings in the southern United States?

For many years I have seen the confederate battle flag and I always wrongly thought that this was the flag of the southern confederacy. In my understanding, the confederate Stars & Bars represented a dissident position, a finger to the establishment, a rebellious rebel's cause. I always thought it was really cool to fly or display this 'rebel' flag, that it was some kind of anachronistic memorabilia that some people cherished as a statement of dissent or a symbol of anarchy.

Now that the confederate Stars & Bars flag has been further bloodied by its association with the slaying of nine innocent African Americans, shot while attending bible study in their place of worship, their sanctuary, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, I am suddenly confronted with the truth.

To begin with, this is the confederate battle flag: it was never the official flag of the South. The confederate battle flag was the flag flown by several confederate Army units, including General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

After the war it mostly faded from view, only popping up here and there, until it made a prominent resurgence during the Civil Rights era of the 1950's and 1960's. Extreme white supremacist groups increasingly adopted the confederate battle flag, and this was not because of "southern pride" or "southern heritage", two of the contemporary excuses for waving or flouting the confederate battle flag, but because the Civil War was fought by many to preserve the national institutions of slavery and white supremacy.

The telling of U.S. history has always been managed by those with the most to hide, and so I have only just learned that Abraham Lincoln was never opposed to slavery, it was merely a political issue that he used to political advantage. Imagine that: a 55 year old citizen of the United States (me) who has always erroneously and naively believed that Abraham Lincoln was committed to the equality of peoples and opposed to slavery. Said Abraham Lincoln at one now infamous speech in Charleston Illinois on September 18, 1858:

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause] -- that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Why, the man was a white supremacist! Indeed, aren't we [white people] all? I hear people's mutterings -- "no, I am no white supremacist... I am not an extremist... " For most African Americans the confederate battle flag has always been a symbol of hatred and oppression of the worst kind -- the trans-Atlantic slave trade, acquisition and sale of people of color as possession, white-on-black rape and sexual slavery, destruction of families, forced labor, chain gangs and penal servitude, beatings, tortures, executions and lynchings of black and brown people -- but it was further enshrined as such by its resurgence during the Civil Rights movement, with the FBI's domestic terror program (COINTELPRO), with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and with the national struggle for desegregation, and all of these things happening at a time when people of color all over the world were fighting for independence from colonialism and imperialism.

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