South Carolina removed a confederate flag over a confederate war memorial in a ceremony that didn’t at all suggest that the Confederate Flag flying in the grounds of the South Carolina State House for the last 50 years was a pariah.
The ceremony was nearly as much of a pageant as one would expect for the laying to rest of a Southern hero, highlighting the deep cultural significance of the issue on both sides of the debate.
The flag’s removal follows days of emotional debate in the South Carolina State Legislature and across the nation, sparked by events following the gunning down last month of nine black members of Charleston's Emmanuel Africa Methodist Church during a bible study class. The shooting was allegedly carried out by 21 year old self confessed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who had posed with a Confederate flag in on-line photos.
Since the Civil War the flag was seen by many as a symbol of racism and slavery while others viewed it as a symbol of Southern Pride. Polls taken after the June shooting showed that overall the flag divide was fairly even and had been that way for the last 15 years.
The flag will now be housed at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum which more than likely means it will now be seen by more people than it would have had it been allowed to fly at the State House.
For those that supported the removal of the flag, today's ceremony was an emotive event.
Emeritus professor of social sciences and humanities at the College of Charleston Jack Bass said “This is a high moment for South Carolina. It’s significant. It could be a turning point.”
Professor Bass said it was not clear if the flag lowering and removal, a rare win for liberalism in a conservative Republican state, would result in other policy changes favored by Civil Rights activists and liberals
Theresa Burgess, a south Carolina native said the flags removal would bring to a close “decades of racism, decades of what this flag symbolizes”.
"I thought about all of the African-Americans that lost their lives because of the flag, because of the hatred that this flag symbolizes,” she said . “I knew that a lot of Americans would have loved to be here today.”
Ironically Ms Burgess and Professor Bass along with others at the flag lowering today sat near the statue of Ben Tillman, a former governor of South Carolina and a white supremacist. “