The recent tragedy in Charleston has reinvigorated debates regarding the confederate flag and it’s place in America.
Currently, the Confederate flag is raised at the South Carolina statehouse; on July 18, the day after the shooting, the Ku Klux Klan rallied at the statehouse to protest it’s removal. Since then, there have been protests and more physical violence. This issue is so pervasive that it’s even made it’s way to NASCAR, where officials have been under increasing pressure to ban the flag at their events.
Earlier today, journalist Mike Bianchi wrote an editorial calling for immediate action. Dale Earnhardt Junior and Jeff Gordon, two of the sport’s most notable figures, have each spoken out against the flag. The movement to against the Confederate flag has had heavy support, yet NASCAR has chosen not to ban the flag from their Fourth of July celebration this weekend. Joie Chitwood, president of the Daytona International Speedway, made this comment:
“Going forward, (we) really have to look at where that other flag goes because it doesn’t have a place in our sport. We’ve got to take a thoughtful process on how we get to that point… (However) with the late nature of where we are, we cannot ban anything, we cannot change our policy”.
This is not the first time that NASCAR has has to take a stance on the Confederate flag. In 2012, the organization canceled plans to have pro-golfer Bubba Watson drive the “General Lee” at a parade in Phoenix. Commenting on the decision, NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said “the image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport”.
At the time, many people criticized this choice, including formed Georgia Congressman Ben Jones. Jones, who starred in the television show prior to entering politics, said: “While it is true that the Confederate Battle Flag has been desecrated by bigots and racists, these groups also misuse the American Flag and the Christian cross in their shameless rituals. The vast majority of the display of the St. Andrews Cross Flag is in a benign spirit of remembrance and reverence.”
Today, that flag no longer seems quite so benign. On June 17th, 2015, nine people were murdered in a church because of their race. Harold Covington, a prominent white supremacists whose work inspired shooted Dylan Roof, called the events in Charleston “a preview of coming attractions”. In the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, there were white supremacists gathering at our state houses. If there was ever a reasonable excuse for flying the Confederate flag, those days are now gone.
At this weekend’s Daytona event, the following items has already been banned:
-Obscene or indecent clothing
While I understand NASCAR’s hatred of frisbees, I think it’s time that this list was extended to include symbols of hate.
Even though the league has yet to ban the flag entirely, NASCAR Chairman Brian France made his feelings quite clear. “I personally find it an offensive symbol,” he said. “We’re working with the industry to see how far we can go to get that flag disassociated entirely from our events.”
While it is quite promising to hear so many people state their disapproval for a symbol that’s become synonymous with hate, until NASCAR takes real action, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”. Banning that flag may be merely a symbolic gesture, but at least it’s a start.