In the wake of the racially motivated shootings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last week, a picture of the gunman holding a Confederate flag (Confederate battle flag, technically) gave new momentum to a long-standing debate: Should the Confederate flag be flown over government buildings? Is it a symbol of Southern heritage (white Southern heritage, to be sure) or a symbol of attitudes that denied and would still like to deny basic civil rights to a large portion of America’s population?
The tragedy in the Charleston church led many political leaders who had remained silent or defended flying the flag over government buildings to come out in favor of removing it from those buildings. For a brief moment, it appeared two sides would come together to finally agree on a point over which they had been disagreeing for years, bringing unity as a result of an act of hate.
Then came what many are calling an overreaction. Not only should the flag be removed from government buildings, monuments to the Confederacy and its political and military leaders should be torn down as well. Next, major retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Sears announced they would no long carry any item with the Confederate flag on it, even as sales of the flag and merchandise displaying it was soaring as much as 5,000 per cent, according to a New York Times article.
No longer will eBay allow items that depict the controversial flag to be sold and, in perhaps the most surprising move, Apple yanked all games from their App Store if they depicted the Confederate flag in any way—which meant virtually all Civil War games disappeared since the flag is often used to denote locations of Confederate troops on the battlefield. (Apple’s official statement says in part, “we have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.”) This is a hard blow to smaller, independent companies that create Civil War–themed games for play on computers and iPads and other mobile devices. It also raises the question: will Amazon and other book retailers demand that any book with the Confederate flag on its cover must be re-issued with a new cover? For independent publishers and self-published authors, that could be a significant expense. And for that matter can history-themed magazines like our own America’s Civil War and Civil War Times run images on their covers that show the battle flag without running the risk of being banned from stores?
So what is your opinion? Is this overreaction or an action that is long overdue? Should gift shops at historic sites like Stonewall Jackson‘s Boyhood Homesite at Jackson’s Mill, West Virginia, or the Old Courthouse in Vicksburg, Mississippi, not carry items with the controversial flag on it? Tell us in the comments below if you think any and all depictions of the Confederate flag should be banned from the marketplace and from public display or if there is a middle ground in which the symbol is appropriate for use.
(As this article was being written, Touch Arcade stated “Apple has been clarifying their Confederate flag policy with developers who have had their games removed and is working with them to reinstate the games.” A check of the App Store shows the games Ultimate General from Game Labs and Civil War 1863 (Hunted Cow/HexWar Games on the site; HexWar’s Bull Run 1861 is not shown, although its scenes use the first Confederate national flag because the battle flag did not exist until after that battle.