Retailers shocked to realize Confederate flag is racist symbol

White youngsters waving Confederate flags greet Meredith marchers on the outskirts of Greenwood, June 17, 1966. The Meredith Mississippi March took its name from James Meredith, who became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962, after a ruling by federal courts that he could not be denied admission. (AP Photo)

Despite the small but significant steps to dismantle a symbol of institutional racism by way of removing a government-sponsored display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, racist symbolism is still good for business for some companies.

Walmart has joined other retailers in removing Confederate-flag merchandise, which leads to the question of what the retailers thought the Confederate flag merchandise stood for when they stocked it in the first place? Did it really take the slaughter of nine innocent people for retailers to say, “hey, maybe there’s something to this racism stuff”?

“We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the confederate flag from our assortment — whether in our stores or on our web site,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick told CNN. “We have a process in place to help lead us to the right decisions when it comes to the merchandise we sell. Still, at times, items make their way into our assortment improperly — this is one of those instances.”

“We have decided to prohibit Confederate flags, and many items containing this image, because we believe it has become a contemporary symbol of divisiveness and racism,” EBay said in a statement.

Better late than never, but, for the record: late.

John Miller speaks in favor of the Confederate flag to the media during a rally to take down the flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Columbia, S.C. A crowd gathered Tuesday to demand the removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop a 30-foot pole outside South Carolina’s Statehouse. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Shortly before Amazon banned sales of Confederate merchandise today, it was one, two, and three on the list of most popular items.

Why? Because a lot of people want symbols of white supremacy.

Times are good at the Ruffin Flag Company in Georgia, where Confederate flag sales are up more than 2,000 percent since last week’s mass murder.

“Of course sales go up when people are talking about it. That much is true with any flag, the same happened with the U.S. flag in 2001,” David Simpson, who works at Ruffin, tells CNBC. He didn’t want to say much more, apparently.

Like everything else has having to do with race in America, it will take time for hatred to die. The retailers’ late awakening to symbolism of the flag at least is a step toward making it an unacceptable icon in the United States.

Related: Jon Stewart calls Charleston the ‘Confederate Epcot’

Equality and the Confederate Flag (New Yorker)