Take a moment to let this image sink in.
Just yesterday President Barack Obama gave one of the most impassioned speeches of his two-term reign. It was a rousing eulogy at the funeral of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of nine innocents slain by a domestic terrorist using the Confederate flag as a symbol of his hatred for Black people inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. During his soul-stirring words, the President tackled head on the renewed debate about the flag, declaring it an undoubted symbol of racial oppression.
“Removing the flag from this state’s capital would not be an act of political correctness,” he said, “it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.”
As cries of protest against the flag grew this past week, I wondered who the courageous person would be to take it upon themselves and rip that s*it down. This morning, just a day after the President’s speech (and perhaps inspired by it) self-described “freedom fighter” Bree Newsome took matters into her own hands, climbed that flagpole like the G she is, unhooked the flag and brought it down triumphantly as police waited to arrest her.
I literally jumped for joy when I woke up to the news—and the fact Bree is a woman got me even more hype. She obviously understood the risks and the fact she’d be taken into custody. Her and accomplice James Ian Dyson now face three years in jail and a $5,000 fine, charged with defacing a state monument. But if this isn’t a worthy cause, I don’t know what is. That flag is more than a source of controversy for decades. It is a racist symbol that represents a war to uphold slavery and, further down the line, a battle to oppose civil rights advances. South Carolina specifically referenced slavery as its reason to secede from the Union during the Civil War and fight for the Confederacy, which makes the fact that the flag still flies over their state capitol even more grossly shameful. And in a sick twist, a Black maintenance worker was directed to re-install the flag after Bree yanked it down today, right before a WHITE SUPREMACIST RALLY was set to take place in the same place. Oh, ‘Merica.
We’re living in such confusing, enthralling, frightening times, aren’t we? So we must celebrate these victories, regardless of how fleeting they might be. In a statement to The Guardian, Bree wrote: “We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
Police ordered Bree to come down from the pole once she reached the midpoint. She turned, looked down at them respectfully (calling them “sir” and letting them know she understood she was about to be arrested) and kept moving upwards towards her mission. As she came back down she was praying, summoning the strength of God through her incredibly brave actions. It is these moments that must encourage us all to keep fighting.