Addressing an arena of Kenyans on Sunday, President Obama compared the Confederate flag to domestic violence as something that may be a tradition but is better left in the past.
“Every country and every culture has traditions that are unique and help make that country what it is. But just because something is a part of your past doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t mean that it defines your future,” Obama said at Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi when talking about at the state of women and girls in Kenya.
“Look at us in the United States. Recently, we’ve been having a debate about the Confederate flag. Some of you may be familiar with this. This was a symbol for those states who fought against the Union to preserve slavery,” the president continued. “Now, as a historical artifact, it’s important. But some have argued that it’s just a symbol of heritage that should fly in public spaces.”
“The fact is it was a flag that flew over an army that fought to maintain a system of slavery and racial subjugation. So we should understand our history, but we should also recognize that it sends a bad message to those who were liberated from slavery and oppression.”
Referencing the Charleston church massacre, Obama noted that “in part because of an unspeakable tragedy that took place recently, where a young man who was a fan of the Confederate flag and racial superiority shot helpless people in a church, more and more Americans of all races are realizing now that that flag should come down.”
“Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right,” he said. “Well, so around the world, there is a tradition of repressing women and treating them differently, and not giving them the same opportunities, and husbands beating their wives, and children not being sent to school. Those are traditions. Treating women and girls as second-class citizens, those are bad traditions. They need to change. They’re holding you back.”
“Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back. There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation. There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children. These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.”