During the annual Country Radio Seminar this week, Luke Combs and Maren Morris took part in a wide-ranging conversation addressing racism in country music, in both its artists and its audience. Speaking about the Confederate flag — a topic Combs has come under fire for — the 30-year-old noted that while he understands it has been seen as a symbol of pride over hailing from the South, its racist implications make its use unacceptable.
"I understand it in the sense of, OK, I'm from the South and I'm proud of that. I understand that. Maren's from Texas; she's proud to be from Texas. I'm from North Carolina, I'm proud to be North Carolinian," Combs said, sharing several suggestions for fans on how to show Southern pride without the flag. "There are so many things beyond the rebel flag that we can do to be proud of being from the South. You can go plant a vegetable garden in your yard of heirloom plants that your family used to grow 200 years ago; that's something that you can do to be proud of your Southern heritage. You can cook a meal that your grandparents made. Those are the things that I try to do now to say, 'Hey, I am proud of being from North Carolina; I am proud to be a rural guy.' That's okay to be proud of that; you don't need the flag to be proud to be from the South."
Morris, who shared that she did not understand the true meaning of the Confederate flag until she was a teenager, had noted that she often sees the flag in the parking lots at country music festivals and that "there's no place for it anymore." "I can't imagine, thinking back on all the times and places that I've seen that flag, and if I were a Black man or a Black woman and just go, 'This is definitely not somewhere where I'm being welcomed,'" Combs put in. "I've never considered that up until seven or eight years ago, and I think it comes down to it's something that's not really talked about a lot in the South."
The "Forever After All" singer recently received criticism after his own previous use of Confederate flag imagery had resurfaced. He stated during the conversation that "there is no excuse" for it. "As I’ve grown in my time as an artist, and as the world has changed drastically in the last five to seven years, I am now aware how painful that image can be," he said. "I would never want to be associated with something that brings so much hurt to someone else."
Combs acknowledged that with his career at a high point, he is a visible figure in country music and wants to use his platform "to say that people can change and people do want to change, and I’m one of those people trying." "I think I'm a living enough breathing example of it right here, that people can change, and people do change," he later added. "People can be resistant to change, and that's okay. It's all about how do we move forward together."