After Adolf Hitler’s murderous military force was defeated in 1945, the infamous red, white, and black swastika-bearing German flag was abolished, along with all Nazi symbols. In 1949, the newly formed post-World War II countries of East Germany and West Germany both adopted the national flag colors of black, red, and gold. Following Hitler’s campaign to exterminate Jews, the Nazi flag was an image of horror to most Germans. Imagine the worldwide condemnation if the newly formed countries of East and West Germany had decided to adopt the “Nazi” flag with it’s swastika.
How, then, do the people of the United States consider it appropriate to fly the tri-colored red, white, and blue Stars and Stripes flag, which came into existence during the eighteenth century, when the U.S. was decimating the sacred lands and cultures of Native Americans and trafficking in enslaved humans from Africa?
Today, the people of a country that considers itself the leader of the free world should want to relinquish this symbol of historic atrocities, just as East and West Germany relinquished theirs after World War II. Not doing so, is to embrace a heritage rooted in oppression, thus, ignoring the feelings of millions of Americans who are the descendants of those who were oppressed, enslaved, and murdered on soil over which the Stars and Stripes flag flies.
The U.S. has made significant progress in improving race relations among its citizens, but it has not yet come to terms with the hard truth that no passage of time, no spoken words, no silence will separate it’s country’s dark history from it’s flag. It’s history has been written, and it cannot be erased. But, as history has shown, it can be transcended.
In 1994, three years after South Africa abolished its brutal and oppressive system of apartheid, the country began to transcend it’s deep racial divide by electing as President former political prisoner and African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela. The late Mandela’s election often overshadows the equally important adoption in 1994 of a flag designed to symbolize an all-inclusive ideal of unity. Of the flag’s six colors, the yellow, black, and green represent the African National Congress, which brought about the end of apartheid. The remaining red, white, and blue represent the Boer Republics founded by South Africa’s early Dutch settlers.
The flag remains the national flag of South Africa today, demonstrating to the world that great racial division can be mended. If South Africa can transcend their history of apartheid, the U.S. can transcend it’s history of racial strife.
With the still ongoing racial divide in the U.S. today made visible when unarmed people of color are killed by law enforcement officers, it would be a bold step toward atoning for it’s dark history if the U.S. retired it’s Stars and Stripes flag and adopted a new one, bearing in it’s design a symbol of unity. After coming to the aid of many members of the global community, the people of the U.S. need to come to the aid of their own by transcending its dark racial history.
President Donald Trump might not agree, but the U.S. need not regress to a time of greatness for a limited few. Instead, it needs to progress toward becoming great for all of it’s citizens. Adopting a new flag would be a giant step in that direction. The world rejoiced in 1994, when South Africa adopted their more inclusive flag, and I’m pretty sure it would do the same for the United States.
So, as the title of one of Spike Lee’s film suggests, “do the right thing,” America, and #MakeTheFlagGreat.