Confederate flag controversy spreads to cop's boxers, National Cathedral, halls of Congress

This stained glass window at The Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, depicts the life of US Civil War Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, on June 25 2015 (AFP Photo/Paul J Richards)
A Charleston, South Carolina-area police officer was fired for wearing Confederate flag boxer shorts in a Facebook photo, while US lawmakers opted to delay a decision on a proposal to remove symbols of the Confederacy from Congress.

The firing of North Charleston Sgt. Shannon Dildine is the latest in a widespread revolt against the Confederate flag and other symbols associated with slavery and white supremacy across the United States. The moves have come in reaction to the Charleston, South Carolina shooting last Wednesday night, in which nine African-Americans died at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dylann Storm Roof, a white supremacist who later confessed to the killings, had a Confederate flag on his license plate and posted pictures of himself on social media with Confederate symbols.

Dildine posted the Facebook photo "a few days" before Police Chief Eddie Driggers dismissed him from the force. Driggers said the photo hampered the police force's "ability to improve trust and instill confidence when working with our citizens."

"Your posting in this manner led to you being publicly identified as a North Charleston Police officer and associated both you and the Department with an image that symbolizes hate and oppression to a significant portion of the citizens we are sworn to serve," Driggers wrote, according to WCIV.

In Washington, DC, the dean of the Washington National Cathedral said Thursday that two stained glass windows at the Episcopal church that feature the Confederate flag should be removed.

Rev. Gary Hall said the 62-year-old windows, which depict Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, were inappropriate. Hall said the windows were installed to promote "healing and reconciliation" between North and South. But now, he said, "the Confederate battle flag has emerged as the primary symbol of a culture of white supremacy that we and all Americans of good will must repudiate."

"Here, in 2015, we know that celebrating the lives of these two men, and the flag under which they fought, promotes neither healing nor reconciliation, especially for our African-American sisters and brothers," he said.

The US Congress has designated the National Cathedral as the "National House of Prayer."

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Five miles southeast of the cathedral, federal lawmakers voted on a proposal that would have removed Confederate symbols from the House of Representatives. The measure, introduced by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi), was deferred to the House Administration Committee on Thursday in a vote that largely split along party lines. Thompson decried the move as a way to deflect and smother the legislation.

"If we're going to debate it, we could have debated right there on the floor — today,'' Thompson said, according to USA Today. "In my opinion, they did not want to take a hard vote."

Thompson added that "it's unfortunate" that Republican leadership in the House "decided to punt rather than address the issue forthrightly.''

Governing bodies that have long accepted, and even revered, the Confederate battle flag ‒ used by the eleven southern states where slavery was legal during the Civil War ‒ have rapidly reversed course since last week's shooting in Charleston.

On Wednesday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) ordered the removal of four Confederate flags from a memorial at the State Capitol building in Montgomery, which served as the first capital of the Confederate States of America. South Carolina, the first state to secede in 1861, is now taking steps to remove the flag from its Capitol grounds.

In Georgia, a state senator said he is crafting legislation that would call for the end to Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate History Month, as well as Confederate automobile license plates ‒ an action already undertaken in Virginia by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Seeking to avoid controversy that may hurt their bottom lines, major retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon and eBay have announced they will no longer carry Confederate items, while Apple announced that it will no longer sell applications that contain the Confederate flag. In addition, some flagmakers have said they will no longer manufacture the battle flag.

Others say the ban furor is a way to distract from the effects of everyday, systemic racism that still exists in America, 150 years since the end of the Civil War.

"When talk about symbols of the Confederacy has run its course on cable news, inevitably the media will crow about 'progress' and then divert out attention to some other breaking story," Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote Friday in the Washington Post. "When the politicians and presidential candidates have run out of empathetic rhetoric and fervent speeches, their inaction will be thunderous. Taking down the symbols without dismantling the structures of racism will not destroy the master’s house."