Coach Spurrier must be reading the blog, I can only assume that’s why he felt like talking about the Confederate flag at an awards ceremony for City Year.
I realize I’m not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach, but if anybody were ever to ask me about that damn Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it. I’ve been told not to talk about that. But if anyone were ever to ask me about it, I certainly wish we could rid of it.
Let me lay out a sketch of the background as I know it. The Confederate flag was put on top of the State House in 1962. That’s 100 years after the Civil War, but it’s also in the middle of the Civil Rights movement, and it’s hard for me to see how it was not a signal to black South Carolinians that the folks in charge wanted to remind them how much they counted (I’m passive-aggressive, too, I get it).
There are some South Carolinians who feel a very real connection to relatives who fought and died in the Civil War, and they feel the display of the flag honors those soldiers. Without any evidence whatsoever, I will suggest that State lawmakers are Civil War buffs at a much higher rate than the state at-large, and that is some reason the heritage viewpoint has a voice in the Legislature. But I have never felt that one could separate the motivations of people to honor those people who died in the Civil War from more hateful motives for displaying the flag. It’s hard to argue that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, and the flag has been taken up by white supremacist organizations like the KKK as a banner. Put the modern uses of the flag together with the timing of its raising and it’s clear that the flag has no place being flown above the State House.
The flag was taken from the State House dome in 2000, and the compromise reached in the Legislature at the time was to install a slightly different version next to the Confederate Soldiers’ Memorial on the grounds. Well, this memorial is right in front of the State House and next to a pretty busy dowtown Columbia street. I don’t pretend to have a clue as to whether the people who made the compromise in 2000 had some dark intention to keep the rebel flag in everyone’s face, but the years since then have shown that it remains very visible and very provocative. Supporters of keeping the flag displayed in its current location have argued that the 2000 law represented a final compromise on the issue, but that argument doesn’t make much sense. No law is final. Any political compromise is by its very nature a temporary one and this one has lasted beyond its time. The flag has no place on the State House grounds where there is even the appearance that the state of South Carolina approves of the hate and prejudice that the flag represents in today’s culture.
It’s time to take it to a museum. Moving the flag does no disrespect to the memory of those that fought and died under it. We have “poor power to add or detract” from their legacy. We owe it to them to look forward and do what our conscience tells us is best for South Carolina, just as they did.