Last week, a daring young black woman climbed up the flagpole in Charleston and took down the Confederate flag. Bree Newsome’s rebellious act at the South Carolina capitol followed a white man’s killing of nine black people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, the most recent tragedy that has intensified calls to do away with the Confederate flag – an emblem that, for many, represents both old and new Jim Crow.
Beneath the surface of the Confederate flag debate is an emergent discourse that centres around symbolic, instead of structural, racism.
Indeed, political symbols – like the Confederate flag or the Nazi Swastika – were designed to represent very specific structures and ideals. In short, they were spawned to signify the essential values of slavery and segregation for the former, and Aryan supremacy and anti-Semitism for the latter.