Ben Flax graduated from UA in 2014 with a double major in History and Religious Studies. He is interested in the public memory of American slavery and the Confederacy. Ben now lives in Cambrige, MA, where he works as an Administrative and Development Associate for MIT Hillel.
As a flag outside the South Carolina legislature, seen by many to be a symbol of hate and violence, remained at full staff not long ago while other banners in the vicinity were lowered, two questions arose for many: Why is it above the rest? And, why is it present at all? Over the past few weeks, following the shootings in Charleston, governments, retailers, and individuals have purged this flag from countless locations (even Alabama’s governor had it taken down at his state capital). Just the other day I read an article about how the Birmingham Parks and Recreation board voted to remove a 110-year old Confederate soldier and sailor memorial from a local park. As the nation suddenly seems more ready to entertain the removal of all symbols and items that refer to the idea of the Confederate flag, I ask the misleadingly simple question: What is okay? Or better: When, or how, do items that are seen by some as icons of hate and brutal actions become respected parts of a nation’s history by others?