It's been a very sad time for South Carolina, and for the whole of the United States, these past few days. Nine black parishioners were murdered while gathered for bible study at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church last week, and the world took a collective gasp.
People are viewing this horrific act as a hate crime. The alleged gunman is being charged with nine counts of murder.
Tragically, the alleged gunman, Dylan Storm Roof, sat for an hour with the people he was about to slaughter. This is a racially-charged murder at a time when racial tensions are at an all-time high in the United States.
To make matters worse, Mr. Storm has a photo of himself on his website holding the Confederate flag, which is strongly associated with white supremacist groups. Now, more than ever, this flag represents hatred and violence toward African Americans.
Politicians are revisiting the subject of the Confederate flag that is still flying over the statehouse in South Carolina. According to an article by NPR, the flag has a complicated history, and today is seen primarily as a symbol of racism.
Many, including South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley, in a reversal of statements she made last year, are calling for its removal from the grounds of the statehouse.
Whereas many of those doing business in and with the South have been silent about the flag over the years, some corporations have decided to no longer sell Confederate flag merchandise. These include Walmart, Amazon, Sears and eBay.
There are strong feelings on both sides of the debate. People in other Southern states, including Mississippi and Texas, insist that the flag is a symbol of their heritage.
An article by BBC news describes African Americans as being "traumatized" when they see the flag, whereas others, including a group called the Virginia Flaggers, say that the flag honours the soldiers who gave their lives in the civil war.
In an article for The Week magazine, Marc Ambinder disagrees with this notion, stating that the Confederate flag has never represented the concept of Southern pride or remembrance, but has always been a symbol of slavery and the subjugation of black people.
It's a very bad time for racism in the United States. It would make sense to work toward lowering the level of racial tension in the country, rather than inflaming it.
It's one thing to honour the fallen soldiers of the American civil war, but it's another thing altogether to insist on waving a flag that to so many, represents violence, hatred and oppression toward African Americans.
The Confederate flag is too strongly associated with racism for people to defend its use. I believe that it's time to take it down and relegate it to historical museums.
One of my areas of expertise is relationship-building. I work with people every day to help them feel more connected, more loving in their relationships, and more supportive of one-another.
I work at eliminating bullying and oppression, and at helping people see how they are more similar than different, and all part of the great and glorious mass of humanity.
In my work, I'm always looking at the ways people can come together and create community, and the things people do that create alienation and disenfranchisement.
I think it's time for everyone to do all they can to build bridges, reach out to others in love and friendship, and demonstrate respect for their fellow human beings.
That means letting go of outdated symbols like the Confederate flag, that only serve to further inflame the tensions.
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