“Why the Confederate flag stays up
The fact that the flag continues to fly, even after nine people were apparently murdered in the name of white supremacy, isn’t just the result of an ironclad compromise that makes it all but impossible to take down. It’s a symbol of how successfully the Civil War has been misremembered so that “heritage” and “hate” could be disentangled from each other.
The Confederate flag was adopted to represent a short-lived rebellion to extend and protect white supremacy and black slavery. For 75 years, it was used as a reminder of the nobility of that cause. Then it became a symbol of resistance to black civil rights leaders and to the federal government that was finally trying to enforce the law of the land.
Somehow, to its defenders, the flag is untainted by any of this. And that narrative has won. In a 2013 poll, 61 percent of South Carolinians — and 73 percent of white South Carolinians — said the flag should stay where it is.
When the Pew Research Center last asked, in 2011, only 30 percent of Americans had a negative reaction to the Confederate flag; 58 percent had no reaction at all. Among white Southerners, 22 percent said they had a positive reaction to the flag.
And when Pew asked the same group what caused the Civil War, 48 percent said it was “mainly about state’s rights” — 10 percentage points more than said it was about slavery.”