Front and center.
That’s where the Confederate battle flag flies on Statehouse grounds in Columbia.
And the NAACP is keeping calls for an economic boycott of South Carolina front and center as long as that flag stays in what Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter, calls a “sovereign” position.
The “sovereign” complaint is debatable.
The “prominent” complaint is not.
That flag at the Confederate Soldiers Memorial is smack dab in your Statehouse-front face along Gervais Street.
And renewed controversy over that location made our front pages Saturday and Sunday. Some readers objected, saying The Post and Courier was fueling the NAACP’s fire.
But when a push to bring a college football bowl game to Johnson Hagood Stadium is threatened by the flag flap in Columbia, that’s big news in Charleston. Even if the not-so-big game might match the Louisiana-Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns against the Akron Zips.
Those touting the tentatively titled Legends Bowl between schools from the Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences say it would inject roughly $6 million into the Charleston area’s economy.
However, the NCAA said in a 2004 directive that it will “deny any requests for certification for bowl games in any state where a moratorium exists as a result of the state’s Confederate flag stance.”
Never say never
Defenders of the banner’s placement cite the General Assembly’s 2000 accord to take a Confederate flag off the Statehouse dome and put one by the soldiers memorial as a bipartisan compromise. They stress that it was approved by, among others, Charleston state Sen. Robert Ford, a longtime civil rights activist.
Never mind that the NAACP never agreed to that accord — or that Ford resigned from the Senate in late May under a cloud of ethics charges.
Flag diehards insist, “A deal’s a deal.”
Just keep in mind that in our state, dealing in human bondage was ended only by America’s deadliest war — and the defeat of troops who fought under Confederate flags.
A caller to Tara Servatius’ lively WTMA-AM 1250 morning show sounded a familiar theme Monday, warning that NAACP officials “will never be satisfied” because “it’s about the money” the organization can raise by raising a ruckus over this symbolic cause.
Hey, it’s South Carolinian nature to resist being pushed around by the NAACP, NCAA, MSNBC, USA or any other letter combination.
Yet a better trait of human nature is avoiding hurting others’ feelings. And you don’t have to share the offense taken by many black South Carolinians — and a growing number of white ones — to know when their pained reactions to the flag are genuine.
When lots of black folks see a Confederate flag, they don’t just see the CSA (Confederate States of America).
They see the KKK.
Times have changed
OK, so too many black leaders remain too quick to play the guilt-trip race card despite remarkable progress toward justice for all in our nation — and state — over the last half century. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s contention that voter ID is a “poll tax” is absurd. So is Oprah Winfrey’s overwrought assertion that “Trayvon Martin paralleled Emmett Till.”
Then again, Winfrey was born in Mississippi in early 1954 — 19 months before Till was murdered at age 14, for allegedly flirting with a white woman, then thrown into the Tallahatchie River.
Plus, Mississippi, due to its image of a Confederate battle flag in its state flag, is the only state besides South Carolina on the NCAA’s bowl-host verboten list.
Still, Winfrey should know this revealing fact: George Will, in a June 26 column rightly approving the Supreme Court’s elimination of extra federal scrutiny for some Southern states (including ours) on voting-law changes, pointed out: “Today Mississippi has more black elected officials — not more per capita, more — than any other state.”
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t lower that flag at the S.C. Statehouse — and the divisive suspicions it fuels.
Want to honor the Confederacy?
Follow this timeless advice from Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, in inspiring words etched over the Jackson Arch entrance to the Virginia Military Institute barracks:
“You may be whatever you resolve to be.”
And we can resolve to remove lingering doubts about white South Carolinians’ racial attitudes by removing that front-and-center flag.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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