When I was growing up in rural South Carolina, where I still reside today, we had a Confederate flag in our home. We were taught that anyone from the North–and thus a Yankee–was bad. We heard the “N” word quite a few times and were given the whole “separate but equal” spiel. We even had Civil War battles in the pasture behind our house with paintball guns.
My dad shoved so much North vs. South crap down our throats that my brother (whose mom is from New York) would greet people at our door with “Are you a Yankee or a Rebel? We don’t want no Yankees here.”
Being the black sheep in my family, I wasn’t about any of that. Further, I detested the Confederate flag. I saw it as a sign of racism, much as I do today.
Early in my sophomore year of high school, I became aware of the fight to bring the Confederate flag down from the top of our state house. I wrote an editorial in our local rag about why it needed to be removed from our State House, which got me branded as a “traitor” and a “carpetbagger” by a few family members. A “compromise” was struck a short time later and it was indeed removed from the State House, but was put right in front of it on a “memorial” instead. Not much of a compromise.
At best, that flag is a symbol of treason. At worst, it’s a symbol of racism. Some people like to talk about embracing Southern heritage and whatnot, and I’m not going to tell anyone that they shouldn’t fly it on their personal property or tattoo it on their forehead–I’ll just think it–but I sure as hell will say that I don’t want that garbage on state grounds, representing everyone in SC.
Now, finally, 15 years later, our House of Representatives voted 94-20 to remove it. This was set into motion by the Charleston shooting last month, where the shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof killed 9 black people at a church. Shortly afterwards, the call came for the flag to come down.
Some people have criticized politicians for asking for it to come down, accusing them of manipulating the situation to their own advantage. It struck me that way at first, too, as much as I wanted it down, but let’s get real–SC has a muddy enough racial history as it is. With that hate crime occurring now, a gesture needed to be made to show that our state isn’t living in the 1800s anymore, that Roof’s beliefs aren’t a reflection of the majority. And where better to start than with what many consider to be a symbol of racism that’s flying on state grounds?
It’s a shame that it took such an awful tragedy in order for this to finally happen, but I’m glad that flag is coming down. Even if many of our citizens can’t quite grasp how removing that flag isn’t an attack on their Southern heritage at the moment, I hope that maybe they’ll understand that in the future. And if they don’t, maybe future generations will.
South Carolina doesn’t get a lot right, but we got this one right. Finally.
[FYI — I won’t be entertaining any pro-Confederate flag discussions on this blog. Like I’ve said before, this is my slice of blog heaven, and I see enough of that garbage on Facebook without it cluttering up my comments section here. 🙂 ]