Race relations are the worst they’ve been since the civil rights movement and if ever there was a time for removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse in South Carolina, the time is now. Good move, South Carolina legislature.
The massacre of nine African-Americans in a historic church in Charleston, the police cruelty targeted at African-Americans and the church fires that have riddled several cities in the South have all contributed to an atmosphere of heightened tension and distrust.
The recent discussion and removal of the flag reminded me of the intimidation I felt as I watched the flag blow in the wind just a few short years ago.
I had a free evening while attending a professional seminar at the University of South Carolina in Columbia and wanted to escape the boredom of my hotel room. There were few people of color on restaurant row, but the smiles from others who looked my way appeared to be genuine. Although the sun was slowly disappearing in the evening sky, the temperature was higher than typical Pennsylvania weather for late June, and my gait was slowed.
After a quick bite to eat and a walk through downtown, I headed to the state Capitol grounds. What I saw was a relic of disbelief. There on the public square, saluting all who would look was a stark reminder of the hateful division between the North and the South and a dagger to its culture of hospitality.
I hadn’t even reached the Capitol grounds when the salutation by the high-flying flag gave me pause. I had no interest in pushing onward. In fact, I remember a feeling of discomfort that manifested itself much in the same way that it does when you believe your presence is not wanted.
I stopped and decided that my best option was to leave. The aura of the flag and what I believed it stood for stunted any interest in gaining a sunset glimpse of the Statehouse.
While proponents of the flag suggest that it’s a symbol of Southern heritage and pride and that removing the flag will undermine its historic value, I say hogwash.
After more than half a century the flying of the Confederate flag has done nothing to contribute to what makes this country great. It stands simply as a reminder of the heritage of hatred that has kept this country divided. Now is a good a time to put away this public symbol of intimidation.
Let’s not forget the heritage of the South and its culture of pride and hospitality. Let’s remember the flag in our history classes and documentaries.
And while we do, let’s thank the South Carolina legislature for removing the flag and putting our historic symbol of division and hate in a museum where it belongs, far away from the public square.