And then there was one.
Six Flags Over Texas, a Dallas-area theme park, will no longer fly Confederate flags on its grounds, reversing an earlier decision amid growing pressure to take down Confederate statues and symbols across the country.
“At Six Flags Over Texas we strive every single day to make people happy and to create a fun, thrilling and safe family friendly experience for our guests,” park spokeswoman Sharon Parker said in an email. “We always choose to focus on celebrating the things that unite us versus those that divide us. As such, we have changed the flag displays in our park to feature American flags.”
The flag for the Confederate States of America had been displayed at the park’s toll entrance and in the “Star Mall,” one of 10 themed areas within the park. The amusement park itself is named after the six flags that have flown over Texas over the course of history: in order, Spain, Mexico, France, the Republic of Texas, the United States and the Confederacy.
Since it opened in 1961, all of those flags were displayed at the Six Flags park in Arlington, a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth. On Friday, all of the park’s flags were replaced with American flags, Parker said.
The park’s parent company, Six Flags Entertainment, operates a chain of amusement venues across the United States and in Canada and Mexico.
Parker added that two other U.S. locations – Six Flags Fiesta Texas in San Antonio and Six Flags Over Georgia near Atlanta – had also flown the Confederate flags but had since replaced them with American flags as well.
Representatives at Six Flags Entertainment did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
After demonstrations by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly last weekend, leaving one woman dead and at least 19 others wounded, there has been mounting pressure to remove Confederate symbols from public spaces. On Thursday, the celebrity gossip site TMZ turned its attention to the Confederate flags at Six Flags Over Texas, reportedly prompting an initial defense of the flags by park representatives.
Park officials also told the Houston Chronicle on Friday there were no plans to remove the Confederate States of America flag, also known as the “Stars and Bars,” because it differed in appearance from the Confederate battle flag, which consists of two blue bars, lined with white stars, forming an “X” across a red background. The Confederate flag features in original maps of the park from the 1960s.
“Six Flags Over Texas continues to fly the Confederate States of America Flag and does not fly or sell any variation of the Confederate Battle Flag,” Parker told the newspaper Friday.
It is unclear exactly why the park abruptly reversed course, but the move caused a stir online, with some applauding the decision and others expressing outrage that a piece of “our history” had been removed. Still, a large number of people seemed shocked at the news for an entirely different reason: They hadn’t realized that one of the “Six Flags” had been a Confederate flag.
Since Charlottesville, Confederate statues have become an increasingly polarizing flash point between the left and the right, as well as the targets of graffiti and defacement. Some public leaders and university officials across the country have ramped up efforts to take such statues down – in a few cases quietly removing them in the hopes of avoiding violent protests. Last week, four Confederate monuments in Baltimore were removed in the middle of the night. Similarly, the statue of Supreme Court justice and segregationist Roger B. Taney was taken down from the Maryland State House grounds after midnight Friday, representing a change of heart by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
“We can’t wipe out all of our history, nor should we try to,” Hogan said Thursday. “But when it reaches the point where some of these symbols, whether they have historical significance or not, when they become a focal point for racism and violence, then it’s time to do something about it.”
On Saturday, Duke University announced it would remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in front of the Duke chapel after the statue had been damaged by vandals.
In a series of tweets Thursday, President Donald Trump lamented the removal of Confederate statues, defending them as “beautiful” and labeling those who supported such efforts as “foolish!”
Trump’s tweets were in contrast to comments he made in 2015, when he supported the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol in the wake of the fatal shooting of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston. According to Michael Tesler, a political-science professor at the University of California at Irvine, the shift reflects Trump’s efforts to appeal to his base.
“It’s not too surprising, then, that Trump went from ‘firing the Confederate flag’ in June 2015 to defending and even sympathizing with white supremacists protesting the removal of Confederate symbols,” Tesler wrote in a guest analysis piece for The Washington Post. “And Trump’s base sees nothing wrong with Confederate symbols.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Amy B Wang