Today’s date will be inscribed in history books as the day a symbol of oppression and hate was removed from a place of authority and retired from public view, no longer able to haunt the lives of those who fought and those who continue to fight injustice and inequality.
I walked to the Capitol building this morning, not sure what to expect. There were SLED agents, police officers, City of Columbia employees, and dozens of news crews, cameras popping up everywhere to get a clear view of the hundreds of people who had come to see the removal of the Confederate flag.
As the flag came down, a roar from the crowd started rippling toward the outer edges of the state grounds, into Main Street and into the heart of the city. Chanting “USA! USA! USA!” and holding signs that read “I CAN BREATHE, IT’S GONE!” and “NOTHING IS PERMANENT EXCEPT CHANGE” and “ONE STATE, ONE FLAG!”, the crowd celebrated the end of an era, long overdue.
I found myself wanting to cheer and cry as I saw the joy spread across peoples’ faces. People stopped to hug strangers, to catch these beautiful moments on camera (via iPhones and selfie sticks, and cameras and monopods), and to dance.
I saw people of all ages and ethnicities, pulled together in a common expression of happiness at this extraordinary event. There are children that won’t ever see that flag flying in front of the Capitol Building, who won’t have to ask their parents about the meaning behind it. There are kids who will tell their grandkids about being there when the flag was taken down. It’s a solemn reminder that we are responsible for making our own history.
While some have debated the motivation behind the removal, and some have questioned the decision, it was apparent today while at the ceremony that this is a small step in a healing process, a sort of restitution and promise to do better. To those who have stated their opinion about the flag being a piece of history and suggest it remain in place, I say this: the history of the flag is not (and will never be) as important as the history of the people who were oppressed under it.
Taking down a symbol that has meant hate and oppression to so many is not the end — not by a long shot. But once a symbol, feared by some as a sign of aggression, hatred, and oppression is removed, it is easier to take more steps toward reconciliation and restitution.
I’m curious to see how differently this event will be portrayed by media outlets versus the individuals who recorded this event. If you watch (or have watched) the footage on television, I would like to suggest searching out other videos and photos online, via YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Tumblr, or other sources.
While it may not seem like much to some, this follow through from government, and support from citizens has already begun to change the way we view our city and our state, as well as our neighbors. There’s more to do, but this is a great place to start.Image Credits: CNN