Amy Roberts: The most southern state in the West
June 23, 2015
Last week, when nine African Americans were murdered in a historic church in South Carolina during a prayer group, the nation was once again shocked and saddened. Across party and state lines, our disbelief and heartache were collectively shared. "In a church?" we all seemed to ask with an air of incredulity. Though I’m not religious, I can’t think of a place where someone should feel safer than in a place of worship.
But as the country mourned, the typical talk of "how could this happen?" seemed to focus less on the usual discussion about gun control and mental illness and more about racism. And rightfully so. The accused gunman, Dylann Roof, was by his own admission, passionately racist.
Witnesses say before he opened fire, he stood up and said he was there "to shoot black people." Since the shooting last week, more evidence of Roof’s racism has come to light. It appears he’s the author of an online racist manifesto, where he denies slavery ever happened, calls black people "stupid and violent," and says segregation "existed to protect us from them." There are photos of him in front of a Confederate military museum and plantation slave houses. And there are numerous photos of him posing with the Confederate flag.
In the days since the shooting, there’s been a lot of talk about the Confederate flag and what it represents. It seems to be a pretty universal feeling that the Confederate flag is not a symbol of southern pride but rather a symbol of hatred, division and racism. That overwhelming public opinion seemed to sway South Carolina politicians, as many have now called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House. Most of the country gets it: The Confederate flag is a racist symbol.
Which is why I can only scratch my head that this same flag was allowed in the Herriman Days parade last Saturday.
The Utah Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans proudly marched in the parade wearing Civil War-era Confederate uniforms and carrying muskets. The group’s website, which includes the Confederate flag logo, says the organization’s mission is to carry on the legacy of Confederate soldiers.
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So in the wake of a national tragedy centered on race, this group thought bringing a symbol of racism and proudly marching down a street with it would be a good idea. While people throughout the country are acknowledging what the Confederate flag really stands for, in Herriman, the flag wasn’t just allowed in the parade, it was sandwiched between parade floats featuring two black people: A young African American lady who was recently crowned Miss Bluffdale and Congresswoman Mia Love.
I have no idea why either agreed to walk in the parade alongside this flag, but I’d have a hard time believing it didn’t bother them.
It’s inexcusable they were put in a position like that to begin with. How could the city of Herriman allow this group to have a float, particularly just days after a mass murder incited by race? Just last month the city of Provo denied entry into its Days of 47 Parade to a group called Mormons Building Bridges, which seeks to build ties between the LDS church and Utah’s LGBT community. So a group hoping to spread a message of inclusion and love isn’t welcomed in a parade, but 30 miles away they welcome groups who take pride in their racist roots?
There’s a reason the Nazi flag doesn’t proudly fly in Germany anymore: Because they’re not proud of it. It’s a symbol of an evil time in the country’s history. They remember it, but they certainly don’t celebrate it. The same should be true of the Confederate flag.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.