Sadly it required a horrific night in Charleston to push the long and tortured debate over the flying of the Confederate battle flag back into the mainstream.
Why this remains an issue 150 years after the end of the Civil War is almost unfathomable. It is a symbol of oppression to too many people in the world to ever be flown. This floor is closed to any further discussion on the matter.
Once the flag is properly removed from any government building, it will be interesting to note how the fans at certain sporting venues – say any Ole Miss tailgate or NASCAR infield – react. I’d like to think there’d be universal repudiation of the flag. But then I’d also like for all of mankind to live in peace. Some things you can’t wish into being. I fear a backlash of ignorance.
Institutionally, both Ole Miss and NASCAR have come out saying the right things. The university renewed its call for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the Mississippi state flag. Both NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. (the Daytona and Talladega owner, along with nine other tracks) issued statements in support of the effort to remove the battle flag from the South Carolina State House.
“ISC will continue our long-standing practice to prohibit the sale of Confederate Flag material on our property,” one of stock car racing’s power companies promised.
In 2012, NASCAR scrapped plans for golfer Bubba Watson to drive his “Dukes of Hazard” car, the General Lee, at one of its events because it features the Confederate flag on its roof.
But it has marginal control over the choices of its fans, admitting as much in its recent statement: “While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our events.”
The Confederate flag has become much less common at southern tracks, a trend that surely must continue. But, yes, these and other fans do have the right to be narrow and wrong-headed. The less that right is exercised the better for every sport.