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One Nation, One Flag

Marc Morial | 7/5/2015, 5 p.m.
During a South Carolina gubernatorial debate last year, when the topic of the Confederate battle flag on the State Capitol ...
Marc H. Morial

“A house divided against itself cannot stand…I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” – President Abraham Lincoln, House Divided Speech, June 1858

During a South Carolina gubernatorial debate last year, when the topic of the Confederate battle flag on the State Capitol grounds came up, Gov. Haley insisted there was no need to remove the flag. Eight months later, in the aftermath of last week’s racism-fueled, shooting massacre of nine innocent people at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston by a White supremacist seen in pictures posing with the same flag that flies at full-staff on statehouse grounds, Governor Haley finally called the for flag’s removal:

“We know that bringing down the confederate flag will not bring back the nine kind souls that were taken from us, nor rid us of the hate and bigotry that drove a monster through the doors of Mother Emanuel that night. Some divisions are bigger than a flag…But we are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something that we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the Capitol grounds. It is, after all, a Capitol that belongs to all of us.”

I applaud Gov. Haley’s swiftness and resoluteness in calling to remove the flag—a powerful symbol and reminder of a dark time in our shared American history—from Capitol grounds. Already, South Carolina lawmakers have agreed in large numbers, and across the aisle, to debate the removal of the flag this summer. This is an important step, but it is only a first step.

We know that our work on this pressing issue will not be done until the flag comes down. That is why the National Urban League and its South Carolina affiliates have launched the “One Nation, One Flag” campaign. The campaign will support the efforts of South Carolina’s legislators to end public displays of the Confederate flag in its state; it will advocate for the removal of the Confederate flag from all public spaces around our nation; and it will promote the United States flag as a symbol of unity, tolerance and justice. Our campaign has adopted the social media hashtag #OneNationOneFlag as a companion to #TakeItDown, and we are also urging like-minded people to sign the petition for the flag’s removal at IAmEmpowered.com.

National debate and division over this flag is nothing new and it has been re-ignited in the wake of this shocking and tragic hate-crime. The flag—born from the violence of division as southern states fought to secede from the United States—was first raised atop South Carolina’s Capitol dome in 1962, ostensibly as commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. But many historians agree that the flag was raised in to demonstrate South Carolina’s defiance of desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement.