Posted in Communicating for Social Change, Compassion

Symbolism, Compassion, and Social Change

As both Charles Blow and Nicholas Kristof noted yesterday, removing the confederate flag from public property is only a start to addressing larger issues of institutional racism in the U.S. Still, we cannot lose sight of the fact that symbolism matters, especially in social change movements. The movement to remove the confederate flag from public property has opened conversations, sharpened compassion for others, enabled people to see the symbolism of the flag in a new light, and spurred private action, as this story so aptly illustrates:

In Austin, Tex., a tall bearded man went into the tattoo parlor where Kelly Barr works with a request: the removal of a 10-year-old tattoo of the Confederate flag.

He told Mr. Barr that he had decided to get the flag removed when he saw the pained look on a middle-aged black woman at his gym on Monday.

“ ‘If South Carolina can take theirs down,’ ” Mr. Barr recalled him saying, “ ‘I can take mine down.’ ” I told him, “ ‘Right on.’ ”

Robertson, C. (2015, June 24). Flag supporters react with a mix of compromise, caution, and outright defiance. The New York Times. Retrieved from