Today, the confederate flag still flies over much of the south while black churches burn, and Dylann Roof’s still not labeled a terrorist (domestic, or otherwise). Don’t be fooled though, the south isn’t a backcountry racist anomaly within a post-racial nation. To be sure, the south does have a distinct form of American racism, but a country founded on white hegemony is guaranteed to have characteristics unique to each region; From Trayvon to Tamir, Baltimore to Ferguson, and back again. Yes, this is the contemporary formulation of white supremacy in America, as is Charleston, the confederate flag, the burning churches, and Dylann Roof not being labeled a terrorist.
Removing the flag is important, no one should deny that. Bree Newsome’s actions over the weekend were heroic and,undeniably, another historic moment in which a black woman challenged state sponsored antiblack racism. As some have pointed out, Newsome’s fearlessness was reminiscent of Rosa Parks. But as quickly as it came down, the flag was restored to its original placement just before a crew of confederate flag supporters gathered at its base.
To recap: Newsome was taken into custody. A black state worker was forced to raise the flag. Whites protested in support of the American symbol of southern hatred. And all took place in front of a government building. This is what white supremacy looks like, but it’s certainly not its only form.
The growing pressure to take the flag down, although an important victory in terms of removing a public display of state sponsored racism, is also false generosity. It doesn’t impact the police brutality felt by black communities, nor does it alleviate the systemic inequalities that maintain white privilege. A true sense of compassion and solidarity to challenge the white supremacist system would be to internalize and act from the perspective that all #BlackLivesMatter (trans, queer, women, men, and children).Consider this, in the wake of flags still flying 6 black churches needed to burn throughout the south before the FBI or media paid attention.
This is not racial justice. This is white supremacy sacrificing a piece of fabric to ensure the status quo remains unchallenged. This is why Dylann Roof is symptomatic of a structure running, not just in the south, but throughout the very core of America. That’s not to say there is some overt conspiracy at play today,at least not in the same way it was during the foundation of this country. Certainly there are those with blatant white power intentions who enact violence against black communities, such as Roof did, but there are also the ideological elements that reproduce institutional racism, white supremacist outcomes, and dominance. There is always overlap between the two branches, but the latter can be found in the criminal justice, public education, and economic systems–as well as elsewhere.
So ask yourself, when the flags no longer fly does that change anything substantive? Do #BlackLivesTrulyMatter to law enforcement? To the schools? To those “allies” protesting the flag? Or even to the government?
The fact remains that white supremacy (whether intended or not) still exists while black churches burn, and Dylann Roof is still not a labeled a terrorist.