While people are still arguing “Heritage vs. Hate,” suggesting that pride in flying the Confederate flag is no different than the pride in the flag of Nazi Germany, and arguing that the purpose of The War of Northern Aggression actually was, depending on who you talk to, about state’s rights, taxes, factories, resources, and NEVER EVER EVER ABOUT SLAVERY (because the Battle of Bleeding Kansas didn’t occur and certainly wasn’t a catalyst for the Civil War), the Governor of Alabama ordered the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol this morning.
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, gave the best reasoning for it: “This is the right thing to do. We are facing some major issues in this state regarding the budget and other matters that we need to deal with. This had the potential to become a major distraction as we go forward. I have taxes to raise, we have work to do. And it was my decision that the flag needed to come down.”
Not only was the Battle Flag removed, three other Civil War era flags were removed — the “Stars and Bars,” which is the most commonly known version of the flag, the “Stainless Banner,” and the Third National Confederate Flag.
Gov. Bentley said that he made the decision after finding out that, unlike South Carolina, it doesn’t take an act of law to remove the flags, so he did it.
It’s fitting, really, that this Governor closes a long-horrific chapter in Civil Rights and racially-motivated crimes in this state. Martin Luther King Jr. started a movement that changed the face of our country from a small church in Montgomery. A woman refused to give up her seat and began a boycott that would last for over a year and ended with the desegregation of bus lines and other public transportation in Alabama.
Harper Lee wrote a novel about segregation and the culture of racism in 1930’s Alabama. The Freedom Riders were attacked by mobs. MLK’s home was bombed. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference offices were bombed. The home of MLK’s brother, A.D. King, was bombed. The 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, killing four children. White supremacists took “credit” for these acts. Another governor, George C. Wallace, promoted a “stand in the schoolhouse door” campaign, an action that forced federal laws of racial integration to be passed. Protesters marching from Selma to Montgomery were attacked by state and local law enforcement officers, forcing them to flee to safety.
In 1994, Alabama finally passed a hate crime law, and in 2006, convicted the last living bomber of the 16th Street Church bombings of murder.
The stereotypes of Alabama being backwards, willfully ignorant, and stuck in the past, clinging to racial superiority, are prevalent enough throughout the United States — and even the world — that in 2007, Top Gear presenters participated in a challenge where they drove through the state on their way to New Orleans with slogans such as “Country Music is Rubbish,” “Hillary for President” and “Man Love is Okay” painted on their cars. Stopping for gas, the locals were upset, and a woman told them to be on their way. The guys were then chased by other people, fired at, and forced to pull over and wash the epitaphs off of their cars in order to complete the journey safely.
But something has happened in 2015. This state, whom everyone thought would be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era, legalized gay marriage after the state ban was overturned. Yes, many countries refused to grant licenses to gay couples until told by federal courts that it was illegal to do so, but once that barrier was out of the way, gay marriage went forward in the state — although some rural areas are still withholding licenses.
And then, today, after all this bigotry and hatred, a state washed with the blood of countless people fighting for their rights to simply live their life and pursue happiness, a state that has had 326 lynchings in 73 years, took another step towards a more perfect Union.
The governor, with no fanfare or speeches, nevertheless made a motion that echoes in the hearts of millions of Americans: that #BlackLivesMatter, and they aren’t the ones on the wrong side of the history.
The governor ordered the Confederate flags be taken down and relegated to the past — because, “It’s the right thing to do.”