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Front Page Talking Points

FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 29, 2015

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

Flag lowering: S.C. church attack widens opposition to Confederate symbol

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1.gifWhat's new this week? Summarize the latest coverage of this issue.

2.gifRead an opinion column or letter to the editor about the Confederate flag. Identify a viewpoint you agree or disagree with.

3.gifLook for another social or political issue in the news. Tell why you think it is or isn't important for your generation.

We are witnesses to a turning point in U.S. history, triggered by shocking violence this month in a Charleston, S.C., church. Its senior pastor and eight congregation members, all African American, were fatally shot June 17 by a 21-year-old white suspect who’s in custody. Soon after his arrest, past social media photos showed him posing with a pistol and the Confederate battle flag. That link appears to be a final-straw breaking point for officially sanctioned displays of a Civil War-era banner still embraced by some Southerners.

"The inherent racism of Confederate flags finally seemed too much for America to stomach," says an article last weekend at Politico, a respected news site. Southern white politicians are bending to long-standing demands to remove Confederate flags from state capitals, government buildings, license plates and the design of Mississippi’s state flag. At the same time, Walmart, Sears, Amazon, e-Bay and other retailers have dropped Confederate merchandise. "By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace," President Obama said Friday at the pastor's funeral. The same day, NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented: "It's offensive to an entire race. It belongs in the history books."

Still, some diehards embrace the flag as a historic touchstone, cultural legacy and symbol of Southern heritage. (See video below). White-pride groups say the flag is a memorial to Civil War dead, not a symbol of hate. "This flag is heritage. If you take it down you won't get rid of racism," Mark Garman, a 56-year-old Charleston resident, said near a protest against the "stars and bars" rebel banner last week. "The flag didn't pull the trigger. The flag didn’t kill anybody." A small rally Saturday at South Carolina's Statehouse in Columbia was organized by a group called Defenders of the Confederate Cross. "The politicians are rushing to get the law changed while everyone is excited about the deaths of these people," says Pat Hines, leader of South Carolina's chapter of the League of the South. "I don't see the connection," he said. "We certainly didn't advocate the murders of random people like that."

President says: "For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. . . . Removing the flag from this state's Capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought -- the cause of slavery -- was wrong." – June 26, at Charleston pastor's funeral

TV host says: "The Confederate flag is one of those symbols that should really only be seen on T-shirts, belt buckles and bumper stickers to help the rest of us identify the worst people in the world." – John Oliver of Comedy Central's “Last Week Tonight”

Editor says: "Cruelty on a horrific scale -- slaughter committed in the name of racism and its symbols -- has made all talk about the valuable 'heritage' of such symbols absurd to all but a very few." -– David Remnick, The New Yorker magazine

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2015
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