You are raping our women and taking over our country! These would be the final words that nine congregants of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church would hear before they were brutally massacred by Dylann Roof. At the age of 21, Roof, a white man, was motivated to commit these heinous atrocities to human life by hatred and racial intolerance. Added to this volatile mixture was a misguided patriotism for the Confederate flag, and armed with a 45-caliber handgun Roof viciously altered the lives of the victim’s family, friends, community, and the congregation as a whole.
The aftermath of this tragic event resulted in South Carolina’s State House of Representatives voting 94 to 20 in favor of removing the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House. Although many individuals may view this passing legislation as being a major victory in the battle for racial equality, it only skims the surface of the practice of racial discrimination that has created the ethnic and cultural tension that is experienced across the country. In stark contrast to this ideology, many true-blue Americans may believe that after the re-election of a charismatic African-American man to the highest office in the land we are living in a post-racial society, where skin color is no longer an issue. However, in the words of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2009), a Duke University sociologist, “The main problem nowadays is not the folks with the hoods, but the folks dressed in suits.” For the most part, the only thing that has changed concerning the practice of racism is the manner in which it is perpetrated.
Arguably racism at its most fundamental state can be viewed as the transformation of race prejudice through the exercise of power against a racial group perceived as inferior (Jones, 1997). Notably, it is the systematic privilege and power of one perceived racial group over another that involves negative beliefs, actions, and emotions that are built upon the idea that there is a fundamental difference between the races. However, the American Anthropological Association (1998) argues that the concept of race is, “A social and cultural construction, and that human populations are not clearly distinguishable or biologically distinct enough to create separate groups of people.” As a result of this conclusion, it must be understood that the idea, concept, or notion of different races DOES NOT EXIST.
Therefore, I humbly argue that removing the Confederate flag will not be the catalyst to promote a racial utopian society in America. It is only the tip of the racial iceberg. To be honest, removing the flag from public display will not change the mindset of the individuals who fly the flag on the poles of their heart. In order to overcome the damaging effects of racial intolerance, and heal the deep wounds of racial discrimination, we as a country must work towards overcoming the practice of utilizing the idea or concept of race as our guiding social construct, as well as devising a strategic plan in which to effectively alter the negative consequences that individual-level, institutional, and cultural racism has had on the lives of countless African-American “citizens.”
Removing the Confederate flag was an easy battle, changing the mindset of the masses is a war that is still raging…
- Charles C. Brown, PhD
Pastor of New Heaven Christian Church, Professor of Psychology, Advisee to State Representative LaShawn K. Ford, Illinois 8th District Chair of Higher Education, and the Co-Chair for the 37th Ward Pastors Alliance