Jun 28, 2015

Bree Newsome Takes it Down

An AP photo of Bree Newsome's arrest after she removed the Dixie flag from the South Carolina State House.
By now, the video of Bree Nelson removing the Dixie flag from the South Carolina State House has surely gone viral. (If you have not seen it, go to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gr-mt1P94cQ.) Shortly after Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the state of Georgia began flying that flag, and in a celebration to mark the beginning of the Civil War, South Carolina did the same in April of 1961, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. During last week's "Meet the Press," Washington Post writer Eugene Robinson, referring to that 1961 incident, said the Dixie flag "was flown as a symbol of massive resistance to racial desegregation."

Ms. Newsome's actions this morning reversed the battle cry of the Dixie flag: Now it is a call to action for all Americans, the beginning of a new fight in the longest running war in our country. It began before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with our genocide of American Indians in one of the biggest land grabs in history, and our trafficking of Africans in the slave trade that established the fortunes of many Northern and Southern families. Our ownership of those slaves furthered the growth of our capitalist economy. Institutionalized racism, the cause of economic disparities in America, continue to benefit the enfranchised among us, most of whom are white. But Ms. Newsome's actions are not intended to divide us.

In the summer of 1964, the racism and hatred that the Dixie flag represents killed two Jewish men, Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner, and their colleague, a Black man named James Earl Chaney, right before the start of the Congress of Racial Equality's voting registration campaign in Mississippi. I was a school-girl at the time, and my family had just moved to the suburbs. We were the first with a Spanish name to live in that neighborhood. A Black family with two children arrived shortly afterward. The father was an anesthesiologist and the mother a nurse. One night, shortly after the bodies of the three activists were found, we were awakened by the siren that called our volunteer fireman to work. A cross was burning on the lawn of the Black family's home.