Since the massacre of 9 black women and men at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the ensuing backlash against the Confederate flag, a number of Confederate monuments and memorials have been tagged with “Black Lives Matter” and other anti-racist messages across the United States.
The incidents have stretched across the South from Maryland to Texas and even reached a monument to Christopher Columbus in Boston. In Jacksonville, Florida a Native American mask was placed in the lap of an Andrew Jackson monument. Jackson was notorious for his support of the Indian Removal Act and the forced removal of Native Americans from their traditional homelands in the Southern United States.
In South Carolina, 30-year-old Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole at the state capitol and removed the notorious Confederate battle flag located there. That particular flag has been at the center of controversy since at least the 1990s. In the year 2000 the state legislature voted to remove the flag from atop the state capitol and place it in a less prominent area. In the wake of the Charleston massacre the flag has again become a point of conflict, with even conservative Republican politicians calling for its removal. After removing the flag, Miss Newsome proclaimed: “You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today!” She was arrested immediately after climbing down from the pole.
While the messages were quickly covered up or removed, their psychological impact has been profound, especially at a time when some Americans continue their efforts to whitewash symbols of the Confederacy — symbols used for decades by white supremacist groups and segregationists — as non-racist tributes to some mythical “Southern heritage” (a heritage in which people of color and their contributions are always left as an afterthought). The message is clear: The Black Lives Matter movement and resistance to violence against people of color in the United States are here to stay.