Traditionally, the Swastika symbol is considered sacred to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. The word itself derives from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “lucky or auspicious object”. In the modern context though, the Swastika symbol is synonymous with racial hatred, fascism and genocide after Adolf Hitler adopted it as the logo for the Nazi Party.
The Confederate flag to many in America is a symbol of the history and heritage of the South. To African Americans the flag symbolizes something completely different. To them (and many others) the flag represents the enslavement of black people, and the enormous violence done to them for hundreds of years. It is no coincidence that the Confederate flag is used by white supremacist groups, ostensibly to remind African Americans of a time when white people were their masters. Dylann Roof, know known to be a virulent racist, was photographed holding the Confederate flag in images on his website (see above).
In Germany, it is illegal to distribute or use publicly any Nazi symbols unless in the context of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. This was done in an effort to ‘denazify’ the country after World War II and prove to the world that is was serious about putting its viciously racist history behind it. While the south was defeated in the civil war in America and forced to give up slavery, the Confederate flag has remained a symbol of Southern pride and still flies on the dome of the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina despite calls for its removal by those offended by its racist connotations.
The use of symbols in society is extremely tricky from a legal and moral perspective, particularly given symbols mean different things to different people. But in the case of the Confederate flag, its continued use in the face of outrage from the African American community is not only deeply toxic and divisive, but works as a blatant dismissal of the painful legacy of slavery in America. The Confederate states built their economies on the free labor of African Americans, and went to war to protect their right to use them as slaves with no legal rights.
America’s history of slavery and genocide against African Americans is at least on par with the Holocaust, and it is an affront to their dignity to dismiss their concerns about a flag they see as symbolizing their oppression. No German would expect a Jew to accept them flying a Swastika flag as part of their ‘heritage and history’, just as no white American should expect African Americans to embrace the Confederate flag.
Taking down the Confederate flag won’t end racism in America, but it would represent an acknowledgment of its painful history. For many this may seem trivial, but to the oppressed it can help heal wounds. And for that reason alone, it is time to take it down and let the country move on.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.