While the souths civil war banner has been lowered in state capitols, it has also been embraced by those worried about Americas changing ethnic makeup

One year ago today a young man with a Glock pistol and a Confederacy fixation opened fire in a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dylann Roof killed nine people. Shortly afterward images emerged of him posing with the Confederate battle flag, and the flag the southern cross rapidly became a locus for the nations outrage.

In the year since a century and a half after the civil war ended a battle has raged between much of the United States and the vestiges of the Confederacy, resulting in the removal of some high-profile public emblems. The loftiest may have been the battle flag that flew over the South Carolina state capitol, lowered for the last time in July.

Alabamas governor ordered it removed there, and theres a push for similar action in Mississippi, the last nation to feature the battle badge in its official country flag. This past Tuesday the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination, called on its almost 16 million members to disavow the flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African American brothers and sisters.

Other skirmishes are still ongoing. In New Orleans city officers plan to remove the statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee from the lower garden districts Lee Circle. But resistance has been strong one potential contractor for the job observed his Lamborghini sports car torched, and other bidders have been hesitating to step forward.

At the tallest building on Lee Circle, the Hotel Modern, attendant Carl Jones recently rode the elevator up a dozen narratives to fix a rooms window blinds. Outside the window, Lees stone face appeared back at him.

Jones, who is black, viewed it with the same posture held by many other people in the city.

I see it every day. Every day. But its not like I think about it all the time, he told. It doesnt bother me. But what I dont understand is this: Lee was on the losing side.

Why are you going to put up a statue for the losing side?

So there have been loss for the rebel south, and some standstills. But more surprisingly the Confederacy has gained some ground. And not only in the south.

Pro-Confederate flag rallies have been concentrated in the south, but not limited to the south, said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate-group activity. He said there have been more than 300 flag rallies in the past year.

Weve seen them in Washington state, Oregon, Pennsylvania, he told. Its not because the people in those places had ancestors die for the Confederacy. Its a reflection of a general white nervousnes, as the demographics of the country change.

A few years ago the US Census Bureau released statistics showing that white Americans are dying faster than they are having babies, and last year it projectedthat within a generation white Americans will no longer make up a majority.

That shift feeds an ethnic anxiety, Cohen said, that underlies all current discussion of symbols and traditions. At the extreme objective youve get Dylann Roof, he said. At the other aim you have, I must say, Donald Trumps campaign.

A vendor flies the Confederate flag before a Donald Trump rally in Pittsburgh last week. Photo: Aaron Josefczyk/ Reuters

Theres no believed to be the presidential candidate gunning down innocent people, he said. Not at all. But there is a broad and ill-defined malaise that unifies his supporters. A sense of slipping power. A hope to, as the campaign motto tells, stimulate America great again.

There was a time in the 20 th century when the Confederate flag “werent so” tightly bound to racism and violence, according to Wayne Flynt, a historian at Auburn University.

You could find the stars-and-bars on the Red Square in Moscow, or the Rastro in Madrid, he said. Its because those people were rebelling against an autocratic government.

Flynt said thats because there are subtleties about the combat flag that have been swallowed up with the passage of time. He said the closest historical comparing is the Scottish flag; its saltire literally inspired the Confederate version, but the inspiration runs deeper than that.

People hold on to it, remembering the hopeless fight against a adversary with superior numbers and technology, recollecting Culloden, he told. They are clinging to a past that they are able never be again, and never quite was. Its a mythological past.

Bree Newsome climbs a flagpole to remove the Confederate battle flag at a Confederate monument in front of the statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina, in 2015. Photograph: Bruce Smith/ AP

Flynt is in his mid-7 0s , now, and said he remembers wearing an old Confederate hat during his days as a college student. It was a emblem of rebellion , not racism.

But the reality is, he said the reality Confederate flag-bearers seem to not grasp symbols change.

I would never wear that now, he told. The symbol has been appropriated. It now represents a hatred and division that I abhor.

Cohen, the SPLC president, said the nation has done a good job dealing with the emblem, but not so well with the underlying sentiment. In the longer view, though, he said the removal of battle flags and exalting monuments will make a difference.

Flynt, being a historian, opts the longer position.

You can wallow in the past so long that it becomes the future, he said. But take away the combat flag and you open the path for a return home and profound reconciliation and forgiveness.

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