John Oliver called it out on Last Week Tonight, saying that the Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should only be used to help us identify the worst people in the world.
Watch the clip from Sunday’s show here:
While the American flag was flying at half-staff on the South Carolina capitol building after the terrorist attack that killed nine people in a place of worship, Oliver explained, “The one thing especially appalling – the Confederate battle flag was flying at full staff in front of the state capitol. The bigger question is why is it flying at any staff at all.”
In for the truth shot, Oliver added, “The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles, and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world.”
If you’re not from the south or haven’t lived there for a long time, the clip of South Carolina Senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham explaining that the Confederate flag is “who we are” might shock you. Graham begrudgingly admitted – in that southern drawl that says this is ugly, and we shouldn’t talk about it – that the flag has sometimes been used in a racist way.
Oliver wasn’t having any of that, and he pointed out, “I believe the first time the Confederate flag was used in a racist way was the exact second they finished sewing the first one! It was around that time!”
But really, this is the point. This is what people need to realize, especially in light of the Supreme Court saying that we don’t need voter protection in the South anymore. The South glorifies that flag. If you’re not from the south, you don’t understand.
This is “who we are.” But by “we”, be clear this is not everyone. It’s just so difficult to get through to people who are clinging to whitewashed history that they are in fact glorifying the systemic murder, kidnapping, violent abuse, and sale of human beings.
With high-end residential enclaves built to resemble the old south, including a young black boy to ring the town bell and black servants to wait on genteel whites, you’d think nothing had changed. It’s the before the war part of Gone with the Wind every day if you can afford it. And there are plenty of northern whites who flock to South Carolina to retire in one of these enclaves, so no one is exempt. The whitewashing is everywhere.
Before people get so angry that they want to toss the south out of the union, let’s call this their big blind spot. It’s like Germans reminiscing about the great parties they gave while Nazis were gassing humans. They just never talk about the gassing, so it’s like it didn’t happen. Somehow they do not understand just how offensive this is to people who were on the other side or those who live in reality.
White southerners who descend from plantations have been known to be perplexed as to why people they consider family, the descendants of the black slaves who served them, don’t share their joy at the memories of the plantation.
The real problem here is that the south has whitewashed the reality of what the Confederate flag stands for and whitewashed the entire reason for the Civil War. John Oliver is right, though because at this point ignorance is no excuse.
It’s time to not only acknowledge the realities of the slave trade, but discuss it and admit the enormous damage that has been done.
It’s time for good people to see that flag as the symbol of hate and violence that it is and denounce it passionately.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.