As per usual, it’s hard to beat the commentary of Jon Stewart and his heartfelt take on the Charleston massacre was no exception to that rule. Stewart absolutely nailed the toxic stew of poverty, paranoia, and white supremacy–masked with slogans like “heritage, not hate”—that cling to and suffocate the minds of many in the Deep South like the humidity the region is infamous for:
“This wasn’t a tornado. This was a racist,” Stewart said of Roof. “This was a guy with a Rhodesia badge on his sweater. I hate to even use this pun, but this one is black and white. There’s no nuance here.”
He also tore into what he described as the prejudice steeped into the culture, noting that several roads in South Carolina are named after Confederate generals, who fought a war to keep black people from being able to use them.
“That’s insanity. That’s racial wallpaper,” Stewart said. “You can’t allow that. Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them, who wanted to start some sort of civil war. The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for Confederate generals. And the white guy’s the one who feels like his country’s being taken away from him.”
Having spent most of my life thus far in the other state that still flies the rebel flag (or Confederate battle flag, as many in the area are wont to point out)—Mississippi, which actually uses that flag as part of its state flag to this day—I can attest that Stewart’s comment about “racial wallpaper” is a precise identification of the problem. It’s an intentional poisoning of the well, sowing the seeds of white racial superiority with each new generation. Which is why back in 2000/2001, there was a push in Mississippi to have the rebel flag removed from the state flag, replacing it with a new design.
During that campaign, I wrote a song called “Take Down The Rebel Flag” which talked about Mississippi and South Carolina and which I hoped would be used as a sort of “We Shall Overcome” for the anti-racial wallpaper crowd. It never was, although it did get a decent write-up in the local paper and my band Buffalo Nickel recorded it for our first album “Up on Blocks”. I was reminded of the song’s applicability to the Charleston situation when I saw that someone had posted a meme on Facebook with the words “Take It Down” over a picture of the rebel flag flying in the breeze.
The song says exactly that:
Take down the rebel flag/Burn it instead of crosses/Let’s cut our losses/and take down the rebel flag
Life in Mississippi’s/bad enough for hippies/even worse if I weren’t white/who cares about colors/all men are brothers/get Jackson to do something right
Take down the rebel flag…
In South Carolina/life could not be finer/for sons of the Confederacy/rebellion is swell and rebellion sure smells when /it’s against common decency
Take down the rebel flag…take it down
The Southern Cross sure looks great/to some Southern natives/like a swastika makes a Nazi feel alive/But some of us just can’t relate/to a flapping symbol of endless hate/hey, the Civil War ended in 1865
It’s time to take down this ugly racial wallpaper, y’all.