For many years, my wife and I would take the drive to her mother’s house in Delhi, a small town in rural northeast Louisiana. On the route, there were three houses side by side on La. 28 in a little town called Crowville that also would catch our attention.

The houses, shrouded by trees, sat just a few paces from a two-lane road that ran out at the intersection of La. 17. Safe to say, this is a rural area.

When my wife and I would approach the houses, we would prepare to cringe for a few seconds because we knew what was coming. Maybe we would talk about it for a few minutes afterward. But we would get over it eventually because we knew we would have to see them again on the way home.

Flown high in the front yards of the three houses were Confederate flags. It was kind of foreboding if it was late in the evening. We always wondered if the flags bothered the neighbors. But, you know what? Where they were located was a great place for them, not over a state capitol.

Since American terrorist Dylann Roof was charged with killing nine people at a church prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina, the debate has raged over the appropriateness of flying a Confederate battle flag over state capitols.

It also stirred up Fox News and some Republicans who couldn’t come to grips with the fact that racism exists, that it sparked the murders and that nutjobs like Roof are card-toting racists and terrorists in the truest sense of the word.

South Carolina will be debating whether to pull down the one flag at its capitol. Hooray for Alabama, where Gov. Robert Bentley took the flag down and the world did not end.

Now, more states have to remove the Stars and Bars from their flags.

For those people who say the flag is not a symbol of racism, oppression and violence against African-Americans, I say, “Do you actually believe that?” I guess it’s just accidental that hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacist organizations and Roof swear by that emblem.

Then there are folks like those on Fox News and some Republican presidential candidates who said the killings in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were an attack on religious freedom. Really? That’s like saying if the killings had happened at a pool, then it would have been an attack on swimming.

Fox and its friends were repeating the Republican Party line that somehow religion is under attack in America. I guess the millions of people who head to church on Sundays hadn’t noticed.

All of the signs of racism, evil and terror were right there for everyone to see. Those politicians who held to the attack-on-religious freedom stand are disingenuous, politically motivated, liars or all of the above.

A witness to the slaughter quoted Roof saying: “You’ve raped our women and you are taking over the country. I have to do what I have to do.” I think that’s pretty much hate speech. I also wonder what the Native Americans think about the first sentence in the comment. I think the ghosts of thousands of slave women may want to chime in on the first part of that statement also.

The underlying message in all of this, though, is that after the sadness has faded and the flag fights cease, what will there be to do?

Those who support the removal of the Confederate flags should make a beeline to the voter registration office and let their dissatisfaction manifest itself at the polls. The only way to reduce the symbols of racism is to talk AND vote.

Oh, about the Crowville houses. The last few times we’ve passed that way, the Confederate flags have been missing. Maybe the owners moved. I hope they saw the light and removed them on their own.

Whatever has happened, that patch of road looks and feels a lot better lately.

Edward Pratt, a former Advocate editor, is assistant to the chancellor for media relations a Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com.