I spent a some time in northeast Florida a few years back. Every so often a bit of the rural culture would show up there, though mostly it is an expensive coastal enclave, separate from the rural South in central Florida and south Georgia. The confederate flags didn't bother me much, I was told they were about heritage, and who cares if people in the South want to remember the Civil War as a rebellion, not a war to keep slaves.
I didn't wonder what it would be like to be black and see this symbol of their enslavement in everyday life, until I saw a man with a swastika tattoo in a convenience store in Palatka, an inland town. His van also had swastikas, confederate flags, slogans about white power. Then I understood how disturbing it must be to be black and to live among people who advocated your extermination so openly. The swastika conveys all that, for my people.
Disturbing, until last week when nine black people were killed in a church in Charleston, by someone with the same political values as the man in the Palatka parking lot. Now they're killing more than a random man, they're killing women too, in a church. Good people, really the best of America. Dead. In the cause of hate.
As long as the confederate flag is a symbol of government in the South, flown over one state capital, in the flag of another, on state-issued license plates, the message is clear to white supremacists. We are with you. And that's why, as long as the confederate flag is a symbol of government in the South, the South itself is a hate crime.
I know there are good people in the South, thoughtful people, who care about others. Think about it this way. As long as the rest of America tolerates this hate, we're standing with you, in inaction.