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A powerful case for taking down South Carolina's Confederate flag

The Confederate flag flies at full mast on the South Carolina state capitol grounds on June 18. The flags atop the Capitol are at half-mast.
The Confederate flag flies at full mast on the South Carolina state capitol grounds on June 18. The flags atop the Capitol are at half-mast.
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Wednesday night, a white man walked into a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot nine parishioners. The suspect, identified as Dylann Storm Roof, reportedly told his roommate that he wanted to "start a civil war."

Thursday morning, a Confederate flag was flying on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse in Columbia — as it does every day. That a flag that represents the Confederacy, a rebellion explicitly devoted to defending slavery, flies on the day following what officials are calling a hate crime, committed in a black church, seems monstrous. This quote, from Ta-Nehisi Coates's pitch-perfect piece at the Atlantic, captures why:

The Confederate flag's defenders often claim it represents "heritage not hate." I agree—the heritage of White Supremacy was not so much birthed by hate as by the impulse toward plunder. Dylann Roof plundered nine different bodies last night, plundered nine different families of an original member, plundered nine different communities of a singular member. An entire people are poorer for his action. The flag that Roof embraced, which many South Carolinians embrace, does not stand in opposition this act—it endorses it.

Coates closes with a call for people — anyone with the moral sense to recognize the truth about the Confederate flag — to think about what they're doing:

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.

Take down the flag. Take it down now.

Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.