CHARLESTON, S.C.: The familiar red-and-blue Confederate flag may be a symbol of valor and honor for some, but to others it is seen as a symbol of racial hatred and support for slavery.
Accused killer Dylann Roof, 21, is pictured on a website that includes a manifesto embracing white supremacy and pictures of him holding a Confederate flag and a handgun.
On Monday, Republican Governor Nikki Haley led bipartisan calls for the removal of the controversial Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol — where state law currently bars it from being removed.
“One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come,” she said, adding the flag “causes pain for so many.”
Also on Monday, retail giant Walmart announced it will begin removing Confederate flag merchandise from its stores.
“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick said in a 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.”
The familiar Confederate flag seen today, a blue cross, or saltire, with white stars against a red background, is actually not the official flag of the short-lived Confederate States of America in 1861-1865.
Born of confusion
That flag—commonly known as the “Stars and Bars,” was similar in appearance to the US flag of the time, so much so that Confederate officers complained that the two were easily confused on the battlefield.
The initial solution adopted by the Confederate forces was not much better; they adopted the Confederate naval ensign, a white banner with the red-and-blue cross pattern in a corner field. Because the flag was mostly white, however, it was feared it would be mistaken for a flag of surrender; consequently, the colorful field was enlarged and adapted into a full-sized battle flag.
The banner in time came to be a symbol, to some, of the South at war—of the army of General Robert E Lee and of the “lost cause” after the South’s defeat, and of the heroism of white southerners.
The racist connotations of the flag were the result of its being embraced by the violently racist Ku Klux Klan, which was founded by a former Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest in the years after the end of the American Civil War in 1865.