The shooting in Charleston last week is another painful reminder of the toxic relationship the United States has with guns and its continued problem with racism in all walks of life, some five decades after Martin Luther King Jr. called for an end to judging people on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character.
However, one of the things that has most surprised me that I discovered after this despicable act is the fact that the Confederate flag is still a celebrated symbol in some part of America, and amazingly is still featured in the state flag of Mississippi.
To an outsider, this seems ludicrous! Why would anyone want to celebrate rebels who fought under a banner steeped in racial hatred? Why, in 2015, is it acceptable for African-Americans to drive along roads named after those who gave their lives to keep them enslaved? Why does this symbol of racism continue to fly across some of the Southern states, including South Carolina?
The outrage over this flag’s use is well justified and, as always, it is the attitudes of a small group of intolerant politicians that are blocking the change demanded by a growing number of people who are calling for this banner of hate to be removed.
However, now that companies, such as Amazon, Walmart and Target, have now realised it is not acceptable to sell the Confederate flag in their stores and on their websites, there is now growing presure on legislatures across America to send the Confederate flag, and the racist legacy of the Confederacy, to the dustbin of history.
Getting rid of the Confederate flag and changing road names may not be a huge step in healing race relations in the United States, but is a necessary (and long overdue) step that will allow everyone to stand together and say with one voice that this flag and values it stood for are no longer acceptable in America today. 150 years after the end of the American Civil War, it is about time that the US ditches the Confederate flag and denounce the hate that it breeds.