Spurred by the Charleston massacre that left nine African-American churchgoers dead at the hands of a 21-year-old white supremacist, Walmart and Sears have decided to discontinue all of their Confederate flag merchandise.
The removal of the merchandise, including items such as belt buckles and T-shirts, came after Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley publicly said that she wants the Confederate flag near the state’s capitol building taken down. Although Haley voiced her opinion on the removal of the flag, it could be months before it's actually removed from the grounds.
The state legislature has the final word on whether the initiative to rid the flag goes through. The legislature will likely take a lot of heat in the days wasted not taking the flag down, as rallies have already entrenched South Carolina’s capitol city of Columbia. As part of an installment reached 15 years ago, two-thirds of the state legislature must vote to remove the flag.
But Walmart and Sears didn’t waste any time dissolving the image of the Confederate flag in their stores. As of Monday afternoon, with just a few mouse clicks, a customer on Walmart.com could purchase merchandise embroidered with the flag. Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Sears and Kmart, doesn’t sell Confederate flag merchandise in its stores but said it would halt all third-party vendors selling those items.
Dylann Roof, the young man accused of killing nine black worshippers in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was pictured on Facebook wearing a jacket emblazoned with the flags of two countries which supported white supremacy and segregation, apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia — modern day Zimbabwe. A huge tip for his arrest came because a woman recognized his three-flag “Confederate States of America” bumper sticker.
The Confederate flag represented the unrecognized, joint unionship of 11 states that were outraged at President Abraham Lincoln’s election into office in 1860. The flag, which was adopted by the Confederacy in 1861, stood for a racist, slave-bearing South set to go against the North in what would be the bloodiest battle in American history.
South Carolina was the leading Confederate state, responsible for engineering the Confederacy and becoming the first state to secede from the Union. Of the 700,000 people living in South Carolina at the time, more than half of those people were enslaved blacks. After the Confederacy lost the Civil War in 1865, South Carolina was readmitted into the Union three years later. Some say the Confederate flag remains a symbol for the state’s history and culture, but its impact and constant reminder of an unjust era has led to many eyebrow-raises over its necessity.
Roof confessed that he committed the attack with the intention of starting a race war, but instead it seems that Roof has started a war with the Confederate flag.
Image credit: Flickr/Jason Eppink
Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.