A direct descendant of Jefferson Davis spoke with piercing passion on the floor of the S.C. senate. She spoke a simple truth: the flag of the Confederacy has no place on official government buildings in this country and only in those buildings as a part of historical display. Beyond that, she spoke another truth that does seem to bypass a lot of people: like it or not, the forces for segregation and Jim Crow appropriated the flag a long time ago for themselves to display their antipathy toward Black rights. The flag had little place in American iconography before Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. By the early 60s, when the South realized the federal government was serious only after the Civil Rights Movement made the government act and our state department kept running into problems convincing dark-skinned people around the world we could be their friend it chose the flag as a symbol of resistance. It is ironic that Lee himself told his army to fold its flags and that the flag usually displayed is one that did not represent the Confederacy. It truly does represent hostility to Black rights.
Jenny Horne, the direct descendant of Jefferson Davis had courage; so did the son of Strom Thurmond, another S.C. senator who declaimed, “Take down that flag!” like Ronald Reagan telling Gorbachev to tear down that wall. Symbols of oppression are powerful, that’s why so many in the South resist taking the flag off government buildings. They want some vestige of hope that they can retain their hegemony over the political, economic, and social structures of the South. It may not be fair to focus on the South since racism is strong elsewhere in the country, but the South has the bedrock structures in place yet to disenfranchise people, especially Black people. Of all place, a comedy show, The Daily Show, interviewed a legislator who made the racist intentions of his state so clear that the interviewer a comedian! had to state incredulously, “You do know people can hear you.” Sure he knew, just like Trump knows; they both know they have lots of folks who like what they are saying. There are not enough Jenny Hornes and Paul Thurmonds with us.