Regarding the display of the Confederate flag outside the White House over the weekend, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes that “it’s not so much that a man would fly a Confederate flag … in front of the home of a black family. It’s that a crowd would allow him the comfort of doing it.” He adds:
If a patriot can stand in front of the White House brandishing the Confederate flag, then the word “patriot” has no meaning. The Nazi flag is offensive because it is a marker of centuries of bigotry elevated to industrialized murder. But the Confederate flag does not merely carry the stain of slavery, of “useful killing,” but the stain of attempting to end the Union itself. You cannot possibly wave that flag and honestly claim any sincere understanding of your country. It is not possible.
Coates earlier provides a compelling explanation of why “the Confederate flag is far worse than ‘offensive.'”:
It is not simply that the flag is offensive. It is that it is the chosen symbol of slaveholders and those who wanted to live in a republic rooted in slaveholding.
I’ve often heard people say that they fly that flag because it’s part of their “heritage,” as though it as no other meaning. I don’t question a person’s right to carry that flag, as disgusting as it is, but it really makes me angry when public officials want to fly it on court houses and other public buildings.