The Confederate flag was raised over the Statehouse dome in 1962 to mark the centennial of the Civil War. It flew there for nearly 40 years before being relocated to a nearby Confederate memorial as part of a hard-fought legislative compromise.
But it’s clear that the compromise hasn’t succeeded, recognizing what the flag symbolizes for many South Carolinians. It’s time for the Legislature to furl the flag in the spirit of good will and reconciliation.
Such an act would be in the spirit of the original compromise, which was approved by lawmakers of good will, black and white, to remove the flag from a position of sovereignty and place it at what was viewed as an appropriate place on the Statehouse grounds.
But there is no appropriate place for the flag at the Statehouse — not in the aftermath of Wednesday’s tragic murder of nine people in Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street. Among those killed was the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was also a state senator.
The suspect, Dylann Roof, has been associated with white supremacist ideology. Among information that has surfaced on the Internet are several pictures of him with a Confederate flag. In one of those photos he is also holding a handgun.
In the wake of that terrible tragedy, the flag issue has returned with a new intensity. Some critics view it as a confirmation of South Carolina’s adherence to the failed policies of bygone years — slavery, secession, Jim Crow, segregation and the state’s initial opposition to federal civil rights laws.
Advocates of the flag say that it represents the struggle of this state during the nation’s Civil War — a war in which more than 20,000 South Carolinians died. It was a war fought by the ancestors of many of today’s South Carolinians, and it reminds those descendants of the gallantry and sacrifice during that bloody conflict.
For other South Carolinians, however, the flag has nothing but dire associations that reflect the race hatred and lawlessness of those, such as the Ku Klux Klan, who appropriated it for their own purposes. Flag opponents include black and white South Carolinians.
In the spirit of reconciliation, the Confederate flag needs to be removed from the Statehouse grounds.
On Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley gave her support to furling the flag. “We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer,” she said. A growing number of legislative leaders support the idea.
The Legislature has the opportunity to remove the flag before the end of this month’s extended session. It can revise the terms of the session, and vote to bring the flag down.
Do it to honor the nine people who were killed at Emanuel AME Church.
Do it now.