Several years ago as a graduate student, I walked into one of my mentors offices and saw a huge sign with the Confederate battle flag on it – and the words above it said “Heritage or Hate?” I had a visceral negative reaction to it then, but Winston Jones challenged me to think about the why behind my reaction.

At the time, at age 22, I knew it was a symbol of hate. I just did not fully grasp how insidious it was. I ran through all the arguments, with Winston challenging me to think about each one. In the end – and over several heated discussions – my feelings remained the same but I could now verbalize my reasonings. My belief in this symbol as a powerful image of hate, fear, danger and terror to so many was solidified, and I finally understood why.

This flag represents not only hate and racism, but the terror so many brought (and still bring) to innocent people. This symbol represents all of the systemic oppressive policies, statements, practices and systems in the United States. This “heritage” is one of slavery, of violence, of hate and brutal oppression, and this flag continues to be used by terrorists in our country to cultivate more violence bred from fear and hate.

This symbol needs to go. So I beg you, South Carolina, #TakeItDown. Put it in a museum so all can learn from the mistakes of the past; don’t fly it in front of your capitol and continue the hate. Tell all citizens of your state and this nation that this symbol does not represent an inclusive and safe South Carolina.

And while we’re at it, Mississippi, please change your flag. You are the remaining state in the U.S. that still uses the Confederate battle flag as part of your official state flag. 

Just take it down so we can finally begin the difficult process of healing.