Bree Newsome did what politicans couldn't manage to do in the past 10 days by dismantling the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolina Capitol Building. But will the action accomplish and why was it necessary?
On June 27, 2015, Brittany "Bree" Newsome made history by scaling the pole holding the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol building in Columbia and pulled it down. While politicians debated the idea of removing a symbol of white supremacy, southern pride, and a myriad of other debatable topics, a group of concerned citizens took it upon themselves to make #TakeDownTheFlag a reality.
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Newsome, a black woman, was later arrested for the action, but many people on Twitter found the sentiment to be a worthy cause in freeing the activist through raising bail money. In fact, #FreeBree trended nearly all day as netizens proclaimed the event as defining for this generation of civil rights. Governor Nikki Haley, a woman of color, has called for the flag to be removed after a social media backlash.
Why wait so long when the murders happened on June 17? Why are some senators and leaders willing to say no after the incident? And why was the flag reinstated after her arrest?
As politicians hem and hawed, the group of citizens finally took a hard stand, mirroring the latest business news around the nation. Retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart have pledged to no longer sell the flag, while Warner Bros. will cease to use any imagery of the Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee.
According to Vulture, "Warner Bros. Consumer Products has one licensee producing die-cast replicas and vehicle model kits featuring the General Lee with the Confederate flag on its roof — as it was seen in the TV series," said a spokesman through email. In fact, “We have elected to cease the licensing of these product categories."
In other words, the iconic car has finally stopped being made in mass. That may not seem like such a big deal to many white Americans, but for people of color the lack of production allows a moment of reprieve in an oppressive state. When the group supporting Newsome spoke to Fusion, one of the biggest factors involved "fundamentals of humanity."
Even more divisive was the fact Charleston shooting victim South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney's hearse was forced to cross the flag on the way to his funeral—even while the American flag flew at half-staff. And this was after his body being held at the capitol building for a period of mourning observance.
On Friday, June 26, President Barack Obama delivered the public servant’s eulogy, focusing on the need to end the tyranny of racism. "We all have to acknowledge the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride."
In a statement to Fusion, the lack of support by government officials forced the hands of concerned Carolinians. "We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston Massacre be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths [continues] to fly above their caskets."
Since the flag's inclusion around the capital in 2000, many residents found the symbol to be an ugly reminder of not just slavery and racism, but the subjugation through gerrymandered districts.
"The flag we removed is one of the most familiar remnants of white supremacy that supports the idea that there is still a reigning group of individuals who control our freedom, while tacitly supporting white Americans when they commit heinous and racially charged hate crimes against Blacks and People of Color."
Late last week, ABC News reported that Haley noted the divisiveness, saying the flag was neither "hate nor is it racism” for many people in the state. However, she added, "At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past."
Released late on June 27, Newsome spoke to Fusion and put the issue as plainly as possible.
“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality.”
As the defining picture made the internet rounds, more people discussed the idea of how the Charleston Massacre really caused harm. And in the meantime, other media looked at profiling 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, the murderer of nine victims and the person looking to cause a race war.
Arrested alongside Newsome was accomplice and spotter James Ian Dyson, who was also released at the same time.
Photographer Adam Anderson spoke with Fusion as well. He took the picture that called a thousand dreams into reality on early Saturday morning.
When talking about her actions, he said "I called her a hero because anybody who stands up for something they believe in…especially to this extent and is willing to be arrested, is cool with me. I respect that." He also notes "as far as her going up there, that is just something that only a person that cares this strongly would do. She was really brave to do that, standing up for what [she] believes in."
It looks like more people celebrated Bree Newsome’s bravery than derided it. And perhaps that’s one of the best lessons to be learned from the horror. Bravery in facing the truth, dismantling a symbol of systematic oppression through action, is worth discussing and forcing open, frank dialogue.
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Hope and change can only come true when people join the group's ideology and “stand as a united front, to take an active role towards liberating ourselves through the dismantlement of the largest form of our oppression, white supremacy.”