Displays of the Confederate battle flag are now prohibited on all U.S. Forces Korea installations, according to USFK commander Army Gen. Robert Abrams.
“The Confederate Battle Flag does not represent the values of U.S. Forces assigned to serve in the Republic of Korea,” Abrams wrote in a memo on Monday. “While I acknowledge some might view it as a symbol of regional pride, many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of hate, bigotry, treason, and devaluation of humanity.”
“Regardless of perspective, one thing is clear: it has the power to inflame feelings of racial division,” Abrams said. “We cannot have that division among us.”
As a result, Abrams said that he is instructing all commanders to identify and ensure the removal of all displays of the Confederate battle flag in work places, common access areas, and other public areas on all USFK installations.
Areas that will be checked include office buildings and individual offices and cubicles, military and government vehicles, aircraft, hangars, conference rooms, bachelor quarters, and the outside of military housing, among other public areas on base.
The order does not apply to state flags that include the Confederate Battle Flag, or displays where the Confederate flag is shown in the background of items including artistic, educational or historic displays.
USFK’s order is akin to orders the Marine Corps and the Navy have already issued, and comes after the death of George Floyd, a black man prosecutors say was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer. The Army, which has 10 installations named in honor of Confederate leaders, is examining adopting a similar order as well.
Earlier this month, Abrams issued a statement claiming that racism and bigotry don’t have a place in the U.S. military.
“We should all be outraged and ashamed at the killing of George Floyd & others by police. I know I am,” Abrams tweeted June 5. “We should be equally outraged against racism and bigotry that continues. To be clear—there is NO place for it in our country and NO place for it in our military. ZERO.”
Abrams encouraged service members to take action within their squad or platoon, and to check out the composition of one’s formation to see if there is a lack of diversity. He argued that increased diversity would aid eliminating bigotry while also increasing formation effectiveness.
“If you don’t think there is a problem, you might be part of the problem,” Abrams said. “Have the courage to start the conversation.”
“We need to do less talking the talk, and start walking the walk in our daily actions that demonstrates our commitment to our values and dignity and respect for everyone,” Abrams said. “Together we’re stronger. You can make a difference. Let’s commit to it.”