The Confederate battle flag is about to leave the South Carolina State House. The Legislature approved pulling the flag down early this morning after 12 hours of debate. It could end up coming down tomorrow once Governor Nikki Haley signs the bill later this afternoon. She’s certainly expected to sign it based on her Facebook post on the issue:
Today, as the Senate did before them, the House of Representatives has served the State of South Carolina and her people with great dignity. I’m grateful for their service and their compassion. It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and one state.
There’s nothing wrong with the South Carolina legislature’s decision. It’s their choice. It really depends on who you talk to on why the battle flag ended up on the State House to begin with. Yale Law School professor James Forman Jr. wrote in 1991 the Confederate battle flag was put up in the 1960’s to fight desegregation:
By flying the Confederate flag, then, the states of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina have adopted as one of their official state symbols a flag that was conceived in a war defending slavery and that has been used since as a symbol of opposition to black equality. In the process, these states have excluded and stigmatized their black citizens and have also encouraged private discrimination against those citizens.
He has a point because Alabama Governor George Wallace did raise the battle flag in protest to black students going to the University of Alabama. Georgia added the Confederate battle flag to its state flag in 1956 in protest of integration. But South Carolina’s reasons may have been different. Former Governor Fritz Hollings told The Post and Courier state Representative John “Mr. Confederate” May was the one who got the flag up in 1961. May was known for wearing a Rebel uniform while on the House floor:
They thought a jackass was showing off…Racism had nothing to do with the Confederate battle flag in my day.
Hollings should know what he’s talking about because he was governor when the flag went up. But it’s also important to note not everyone in South Carolina believed that. K. Michael Prince pointed out in his 2004 book Rally ’round the Flag, Boys! South Carolina and the Confederate Flag, the state legislature had been arguing about the battle flag since 1980 thanks to Representative Kay Patterson:
The same applied to his struggle against the Confederate flag. His attacks on the flags were Patterson’s means of insisting that the state demonstrate equal consideration of and proper respect for the dignity of its black citizens.
There are plenty of black people not named Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton who believe the battle flag is a symbol of racism. One of them told me he saw the flag as racist, but also understood a lot of people see it as Southern Pride. He’s a big fan of the Dukes of Hazzard too. My friend also understood the importance of the flag’s place in history and doesn’t want it whitewashed out. It would be nice if more people were like him in their levelheadedness. The discussions about changing the names of schools named after Confederate icons is rather ridiculous. The talks about getting rid of monuments to Confederate heroes is dumb. Apple pulling Civil War games with the Confederate battle flag is just stupid, although they’ve thankfully restored some of them. History shouldn’t ever be whitewashed or it might end up being forgotten, then repeated.
The South Carolina legislature actually had some good compromises which failed.. House Speaker Jay Lucas suggested replacing it with the state flag, while others wanted the First S.C. Volunteer Infantry Regiment flag to replace the battle flag. Politics and saving face are probably why they didn’t pass, and that makes sense in its own way. The Confederate monument is going to stay up, and shouldn’t be taken down. It never should come down because of its history. Here’s hoping South Carolina’s decision will eventually cause people to start chilling out and end the Confederate witch hunt. There are a lot more important things going on.