“Let’s make the Confederate flag a hate crime: It is the American swastika and we should recoil from it in horror.”
So opines Nick Bromell, a professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In the wake of a purge that has seen the Confederate battle flag vanish from stores and disappear from the grounds of South Carolina’s capitol building, Bromell says in Salon that America should be going much, much further.
“Americans who refuse to acknowledge the connection between the Confederate flag and the horrors of slavery and white supremacy are still in the grip of a ‘malignant spirit’ handed down from generation to generation from 1865 to this day,” writes Bromell. “It is a fine thing that the Confederate flag will no longer fly above the South Carolina state capitol. But displaying the Confederate flag anywhere is, at bottom, an act of hate. It should be recognized as such, and punished as a hate crime.”
Bromell defends his call by citing the words of escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lamented in 1871 that “covert, insidious, [and]secret” hatred continued to exist in the United States and was far harder to defeat than the military rebellion of the South in the Civil War. This lamentation on hatred, Bromell says, makes him feel “confident” that Douglass would agree with him on banning the flag.
Historical context offers some reason to doubt Bromell, though, because in addition to opposing slavery Douglass was also a fierce defender of free speech as one of America’s premier rights.
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