It is time to be clear about whether it is okay to fly the Confederate flag. I say it is not okay, and I think Republican leaders need to step up and say so.


A protester holds up a sign at a rally against the Confederate flag in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday. (Mladen Antonov/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

I get that there was a time when people with relatives or even recent ancestors had some plausible claim that displaying the flag was some kind of acknowledgement of their heritage. People didn’t want to think that their family members or their neighbors who fought for the South in the Civil War were evil. But that generation has long since passed, and that thin reed of an excuse is no longer applicable. The very idea that the Confederate flag celebrates a history worth celebrating is offensive. Exactly what is it that is being celebrated by the display of the Confederate flag?

If you were standing next to a black friend and fellow citizen and looked up and saw a Confederate flag on display, how would you feel? The situation would be awkward at best. How would the black citizen feel? Is there anything there for him or her to celebrate? Of course not. The Confederate flag is nothing more than a condescending, mean-spirited taunt. If you want to shake your fist at Washington, celebrate Southern pride or whatever, figure out a way to do it that doesn’t have an obvious racist connotation.

I am a proud Alabamian, but no one in the South should hide behind the notion that the flag has a place in the public square because “it is part of our history.” There are plenty of symbols and words that are part of history that are off-limits because they are offensive and have no place in modern society. And the idea that we Southerners should ignore anyone pointing out the obvious and refuse to listen to outsiders because we think they shouldn’t tell us what to do with that flag is silly. Obstinance in furtherance of an insult is no virtue.

Good for Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and others who have been clear Republican voices on this matter. Other Republican leaders should chime in.