Normally, I write about the troubling: the regressive, the oppressive, and the status quo. But in the last week, another force has prevailed: progress.
On the one hand, in South Carolina, the shooting of nine African-Americans in a traditional black church by a white supremacist left Americans in shock. However, this was far from an isolated incident. At least three black churches were the target of arson in the following week, part of a long tradition of violence against black churches to attempt to suppress black civil rights movements.
In the ensuing mourning, a conversation has been raised criticizing the ongoing prevalence of the racist Confederate flag in the South in the context of racially motivated violence. This has led many — conservative politicians included — to call for the removal of that flag. Many stores pulled the Confederate memorabilia, and it looks like the flag will be coming down from many government buildings over time.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, a move which by no means ends the necessity for activism on behalf of LGBTQ Americans, but serves to preserve yet another modicum of human dignity for a group long-maligned by American society.
The decision came right before Pride weeks across the country, and the rainbow flag flew in cities across the United States, and many buildings sported rainbow lights in commemoration.
Yes, they are both just symbols. And yet symbols have meaning: they define our own alignments. Last week, we chose one symbol to represent us — a symbol of not just inclusion, but celebration of difference — and rejected another — a symbol of exclusion and segregation.