The Confederate flag, symbol of misplaced claims of tradition among proponents and flag of racism for opponents, is on the run.
Even Wal-Mart is ridding itself of anything adorned with the racist icon from its shelves and web sites.
Wal-Mart announced Monday that the Confederate flag is now verboten at its stores and will no longer be sold or marketed.
In a single sweeping move, it eliminated all Confederate flag-adorned items from its Web site: A tee shirt emblazoned with the blue, red and gray banner and the words “Rebel Firefighter.” A belt buckle bearing the flag and the term “Country Girl.” Towels. Bandannas. Swimsuits. And flags, of course. Plenty of them.
“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer,” spokesman Brian Nick wrote in an e-mailed statement. “We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site.”
Wal-Mart is taking some unusual steps into the modern world lately, including raises salaries and exceeding the proposed minimum wage on baselines.
This of course doesn’t mean a damn thing to hardcore, self-anointed Rednecks who sees the Confederate flag as something to be admired and worn on t-shirts, hung in back windows of pickups and flown from poles in front of single and double wide mobile homes.
Let’s face it. If a good ole boy and his lady can’t “be American” by buying a Confederate flag made in China at the local Wal-Mart, what’s left?
The latest outcry against the sign of the Confederacy — side that lost the Civil War — comes from the tragic killing of nine people and wounding more in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylan Roof, a young self-proclaimed racist whose picture on a web site showed him with a rebel flag and, of course, a gun.
Even Nikki Haley, the South Carolina governor who was once the darling of the tea party, is calling for removal of the Confederate flag from the state capital.
That activists would question the presence of the flag was not surprising. That presidential candidates and political figures would add their two cents was perhaps even less so.
But for the world’s largest retailer to voluntarily wade into the controversy and side against the disputed symbol of the old South is both a surprise and a sign that Wal-Mart may become an unlikely new bellwether of social change in the U.S.
If such social change is finally coming, even to the Deep South, it is long overdue. As a Southerner by birth, I have long been offended by the Confederate flag’s continued existence in this country. It is, in my opinion, a disgusting symbol of a sordid and hideous period of history that should have been buried long ago.
President Barack Obama weighed in Monday with strong words:
Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.
Yes, America’s African American President invoked the “N-word” to illustrate his concern. Walmart is throwing symbols of racism out with the trash.
Is America finally ready to stand up and face the realities of racism?
Of course not. Banning the flag from Wal-Mart is good business and good marketing but eliminating racism from the American psyche requires a radical sea change in a society riddles with ignorance, hate and prejudice.
Someday, maybe, but not today…or tomorrow…or in the near future.