Why South Carolina must remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Capitol Grounds

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.
Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.

The terror and murder of innocents in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church a few days ago has rightfully sparked a discussion of our country’s problem with race–especially the fact that on a daily basis, black people are targets of white hatred.  And, in the case of 21 year-old Dylann Roof, a white racist from Eastover, South Carolina, his hatred led him to plot and murder nine individuals gathered for prayer in their own church.  They were:

Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Johnson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 49
Myra Thompson, 49

Say their names.  This is a constant refrain, because this story isn’t just about the murderer, it’s as much about those who were killed and the devastation that their families and community are left to deal with.

Enough of this.
Enough of this.

It is also time that South Carolina, in particular, remove one of the most divisive symbols on its Capitol grounds–the Confederate battle flag.  It’s the same flag that Dylann Roof sported on the front plate of his car and one, among other white supremacist flags, that he swore allegiance to.

Governor Nikki Haley feigns surprise at how someone could enter a place of worship to kill people, while also suggesting that this flag is a-okay with business CEOs.

First, Gov. Haley needs to get her head out of the sand. This wasn’t simply an attack on people of faith.  It was an act of racial terror on a specific church.  Anyone with a bare bones understanding of the state’s history, which should include Haley, knows exactly why Roof targeted Emanuel AME.

Second, whether or not CEOs have a problem with the Confederate battle flag on capitol grounds is beside the point. The South Carolina State House is the people’s house.  It doesn’t belong to the CEO of Volvo or any other business considering locating a factory in South Carolina. It belongs to all of South Carolina’s citizens, not just the ones who are clinging to a relic of white supremacy.

The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney

So that flag, the one that inspires racial hatred and murder and hopes of a race war, has no place on the grounds of state government. Shamefully, it flew even as The Honorable Senator Clementa Pinckney, murdered in the church he pastored, was being eulogized inside the senate chamber where he once served.

It insults his service to South Carolina. It insults all those who were murdered as they worshipped. It insults black and white citizens of the state alike, and it must come down.

It’s a small gesture and not a salve for all that is wrong, but it might begin a process of racial healing that is much needed right now.

Occupy South Carolina? Yes. Republican debaters beware!

South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in the nation, a place where Republican presidential candidates are often assured of a supportive crowd.  So, when Michele Bachmann took to the stage to give a foreign policy speech aboard the WWII air craft carrier USS Yorktown, harbored near Charleston, South Carolina, she was taken by surprise when a group of around 30 protestors, affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, shouted her down with chants of “you cater to the 1 percent!”  Instead of giving her policy speech, she was ushered off stage.  Score one for Occupy Charleston.

This was not a huge political story, but the fact that it took place in South Carolina drew significant media interest.  So often, it seems, the media delights in spreading the news of South Carolina’s political nuttiness.  To be fair, the state has often served as a wellspring of such stories in recent years.  Former governor Mark Sanford’s well-publicized affair with his Argentinian mistress, which included his weepy and weird press conference did nothing for the state’s political reputation.  Then, there was Alvin Greene, an unemployed Air Force veteran who was indicted for showing pornographic photos to a female student at the University of South Carolina, who still garnered enough votes to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Some in the media seem shocked that a pocket of populism (much less liberalism) exists in a state known for its conservative politics and its Tea Party governor, Nikki Haley.  The action taken by Occupy Charleston simply does not play into popular perceptions of the state; therefore, it was news that, even in South Carolina, people are taking a stand on behalf of the 99%.

This election, however, is ultimately about the economy and South Carolina is suffering.  The state’s unemployment rate is at 11% and in some areas that percentage is far higher. So, when the GOP’s presidential candidates gather tomorrow at Wofford College in Spartanburg for yet another debate, don’t be surprised if you hear from members of Occupy South Carolina and their friends in the pro-labor “Redneck Party” who are going after what they call “cheap labor” conservatives.  The Occupy Movement is alive and well in the Palmetto State. Don’t be so surprised.