The responses to my stance on flying the Confederate flag have been vile, vitriolic and venomous. Of the hundreds or so received, I replied to about 30 to explain my position and, more importantly, to seek the understanding and friendship of the authors. But to reply to all in a reasonable time is beyond my ability. Since I want all citizens of Charleston County and beyond to understand my position, I am writing an open letter.
Firstly, it was my constituents who first raised the issue of the Confederate flag within the Citadel chapel. Tim Scott, Lindsey Graham, Joe Wilson and other politicians address concerns of their constituents. Should I not do the same as a representative of my constituents? Teddie Pryor, chairman of Charleston County Council, and I approached the college and presented our request and reasons for the flag's removal. Our efforts failed. We hoped the flag could be removed without inflaming passions and pejorative attention to The Citadel. Chairman Pryor and I have never been rabble-rousers. We, with other council members, used "direct action" as a last resort as the issue could no longer be ignored
Secondly, the flag is within a house of worship. A divisive symbol should not be sheltered where one communicates with God. The flag may be a symbol of a proud heritage, but it is also one associated with opposition to civil rights and with America's vilest reactionary group, the KKK. It is my understanding that the flag has not been housed in the chapel continuously since 1939 because a former chaplain was so incensed that he took it down. I'm told that it was "re-raised" about six to seven months ago.
Thirdly, many of my constituents are not in favor of giving public tax dollars to an institution which accommodates the flag. Such an act suggests that government condones divisiveness whereas government should be inclusive of all.
Too many African Americans, liberal and radical whites, progressive Jews and others have died in the cause of racial equality. As Americans, we cannot allow racial division to continue within this country. Any symbol which is divisive should be removed.
Many affirm the Confederate flag is legally flown within the chapel because of the Heritage Act. Just because an act is legal does not make it right. We must remember that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything to aid Jews was "illegal." The Heritage Act may be an unjust law; and according to St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is no law at all.
The Confederate flag is not simply a symbol of racial division between blacks and whites. It is also a symbol of injustice and immorality. I believe one day a youthful white generation will come to see the errors of their fathers and say, "Flying the flag is not just."
I am also involved because it saddens me that the church is still sitting on the sidelines. Throughout history in the realm of America's racial issues - slavery, black codes, segregation, civil rights movement - the church did nothing or very little. It was more concerned with the status quo than with fairness and justice. A white minister wrote stating he is my brother in Christ; yet he would not oppose flying the flag - a symbol of racial division. If the church cannot help, then who?
Finally, I am concerned with the flag issue because I was under the impression the concessions made to have the flag flown on state grounds were sufficient. But with all the damning and cursing of me, I was wrong about the concessions. Perhaps it is now the time to have a deliberate countywide civil debate if someone is creative enough to have it done. Perhaps at The Citadel.
Henry Darby represents District 4 on Charleston County Council.
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