“If the Civil War were still going on, I’d shoot you dead.” These were the words my mother heard from the first person she interacted with in South Carolina — a grocery store clerk — in 1976. The clerk was white. My Indiana born and bred mother of Irish-English-Scottish descent is whiter than white. The moving truck had left our quarters on the Charleston Navy Yard an hour before, my dad was at work, and mom took us kids – 12, 10 and almost 1 – to the Piggly Wiggly for some milk, eggs, and a loaf of Sunbeam.

As is the case with many military bases, the adjacent neighborhood was sketchy at best. Red light district. Seedy bars. But my mother was exhausted, her kids were hungry, and she was doing her best. The check-out clerk? Obviously not the sharpest tool in the shed, but her motivation was not ignorance. Her motivation was hatred, hatred of anyone who wasn’t her kind – whether black or white. The sight of a “Yankee” address on a check motivated the Confederate in her to issue that death threat to a total stranger.

In the heart-wrenching weeks after the massacre of nine Charlestonians at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, I’ve been reading and thinking about the Confederate flag controversy. Over and over, supporters of the flag claim it is a symbol of heritage. Opponents say the flag reflects racism of the worst kind. Each side stands by its own truth. But here is the question: Should our culture celebrate a symbol of heritage if its origin is hate?

The answer is: No.

Heritage (from Old French, “heriter,” to inherit) refers to “valued objects and qualities that have been passed down from previous generations.” We — no matter what our nation, creed or color — we cannot continue to allow hatred to be a valued quality that we pass from one generation to the next. Our time living on this Earth is short. Our charge while alive is to better the world for others. Hatred has no place here. Achieving this ideal is up to each of us.

Following the lead of Charleston as she mourns, we must put the enduring wounds of history in context. Our time is short. We must teach our children well: hatred is not heritage.