I never feel more southern here than when I reflect on growing up in a place where the Confederate flag was sacrosanct. It didn’t take the assassinations in South Carolina’s Mother Emanuel Church for me to know that it is still held in high regard in many of the former states of the Confederacy. I saw it everywhere, including my hometown of Memphis. On any given day I would see the flag on pickup trucks and luxury car bumpers, pinned on lapels, or hanging from charm bracelets. The confederate flag decorated lots of front yards, and flew from too many porches to count. It was so ubiquitous that its presence was seen as normal.

I learned very early on about the Confederate flag and its history; I also learned the people wearing or waving the flag were usually the same people spewing racial slurs, and fomenting racial unrest.

Just two years ago members of the Ku Klux Klan started a recruiting campaign in Memphis. They distributed leaflets declaring ‘the KKK wants you!,’ dropping the unsolicited propaganda in the driveways and mailboxes of residents. 2013, people. Prominently displayed on each flyer-- the Confederate flag.  No surprise. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, says the Confederate flag is a symbol embraced by white supremacy groups, like the one shooter Dylann Roof admired. So when some prominent South Carolinians and others profess astonishment that the flag represents hate not heritage, well, that’s just plain bunk. As the old people down home say–don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

In cross burnings, lynchings, and church bombings— the battle flag was out in front in acts of resistance against enslaved people fighting for freedom, and later on, in acts of defiance to protest desegregation laws.  South Carolina’s Confederate battle flag was first raised during the turbulent time of the civil rights movement.

I mourn for the thousands of people terrorized, maimed or killed under the banner of that flag. And I’m enraged that State Representative, Pastor, and murder victim Clementa Pinckney had to bear the final disrespect ---his body lay in state last Wednesday under a rebel flag flying at full mast.

The flag is literally padlocked to the pole. By law only the state legislature -–by a 2/3rds vote-- can authorize its lowering or removal. South Carolina lawmakers will debate the flag’s removal in a special session during the next few weeks.

There are also moves to take down the flag in other states, to stop the sale of confederate merchandise, and to remove statues and busts honoring confederate military heroes. Conservative editor William Kristol describes this as “expunging history in a frenzy of self righteousness.” He’s wrong.  I don’t want to erase history. The Confederate flag has no business being on public property, but it should be in museums. And I want the busts and statues around to help tell the real unvarnished history of the civil war. A war fought not for honor, heritage, or state’s rights, but for the right to own slaves, period. A history that, once again, has been written in the blood of innocents.