All in the same month, the Confederate battle flag came down after 54 years of flying at the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, and the Cuban flag was raised Monday after 54 years with the opening of the Havana embassy in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. and Cuba formally restoring diplomatic relations.
The Confederate battle flag came down July 10 after a vote by the South Carolina Legislature to remove it after the shooting of nine African Americans on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston by a white gunman inspired by the racist hate that the flag symbolized.
The Confederate battle flag had been up at the Statehouse since 1961, marking the centennial of South Carolina opening fire on Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War. For some, the flag symbolized white heritage and states rights. For others — especially at the height of the civil rights movement — it represented race-related hate.
Years of efforts to have the flag removed from South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds had been unsuccessful. It took the tragic shooting deaths of the black churchgoers to push lawmakers to finally do the right thing.
President Barack Obama has to be credited with the Cuban flag going up in the nation’s capital after the Dec. 17 announcement by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro of efforts to normalize relationships between the two countries. Talks between the two countries remain ongoing with serious issues separating the two sides.
The U.S. embassy could open in Havana as early as next month. The Cuban flag has been down in Washington since 1961. Relations between the two countries were bad and getting worse after the 1959 revolution that Fidel Castro led, the Cuban government takeover of U.S. businesses and banks, repeated CIA assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, and who could forget the Cuban missile crisis during the Cold War?
Both countries are far from letting bygones be bygones. But the Cuban flag going up and talks continuing are encouraging signs that progress will continue.