As It Happens

'Not strictly a symbol of racism': South Carolina Republican defends Confederate flag

Defending the flag. A Republican representative in South Carolina tells us why the Confederate flag should still fly on the grounds of the state capitol.
A Confederate flag flies on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol building in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, June 22, 2015. (Albert Cesare/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

After years of debate, the Confederate battle flag may soon be removed from the grounds of South Carolina's capitol for good.

The flag has long been a rallying symbol for racists — and a version of it was displayed in photos by the man accused of killing nine people at a black church in Charleston.

The South Carolina House approved a measure allowing them to consider removing the flag on Tuesday, but a few are still standing by the symbol.

Republican state representative Jonathon Hill

"There is a proper time and place for for the Confederate battle flag," says Jonathon Hill, Republican representative in the South Carolina House, to As It Happens co-host Carol Off. "Let's be clear: we're talking about General Lee's battle flag. We're not talking about the rectangular confederate flag that's so often associated with the south and at times with white supremacy and so forth."

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (Wikimedia Commons)

The shootings in Charleston have reinvigorated decades-long campaigns to remove Confederate symbols from other states.

"It's not strictly a symbol of white supremacy, it's not strictly a symbol of racism, it is a basically a war relic and nothing more," Hill argues.

"Removing the flag is not going to eradicate hate," he continues. "It's going to do very little in the long run to assuage anyone's feelings about the situation, and it's going to have a negative long-term effect on our understanding of history because the more of these things that we eliminate, the more we'll tend to forget, and the more in danger we'll be of repeating that history."

Hill is challenged many times in the interview. His arguments have been disputed by others, including Mississippi Republican speaker of the House Philip Gunn. That state has a Confederate symbol within their flag. In a statement, Gunn said: "We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us. As a Christian, I believe our state's flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed."

Sen. Paul Thurmond, the son of segregationist Strom Thurmond, supports removing the flag. Also today, Virginia's governor said the state will stop offering Confederate flag license plates. They've joined a number of retailers who have also pulled the flag.