I’ve lived in South Carolina for a few years and up until this weekend I have never really had the ah-ha moment about the continued campaign to remove the Confederate flag that flies on the Statehouse grounds.
However, While listening to a podcast of the Michael Eric Dyson show, Dyson and Zaheer Ali, a doctoral student of history at Columbia University several light bulbs went off. The conversation stood out for me because earlier in the week someone on Twitter asked, “Can we (black people) just forget about The Flag and move on to bigger issues within our community? Why can’t we just let it go??”
About halfway through Dyson and Ali’s conversation, the light bulb went off regarding the continual “fight” to remove the flag from the SC Statehouse grounds when Ali specifically mentioned South Carolina. According to Ali, Thomas Jefferson condemned slavery in drafts of the Declaration of Independence. However, it was deleted because states such as South Carolina refused to ratify it as long as it was included. During that time, South Carolina’s population was more than 60 percent.
They also addressed an argument that gets raised about when groups or individuals say the flag is meant to honor those who fought in the war and not meant to defend slavery. It is true that most, if not all, of those fighting in the war did not own slaves. That still does not erase that the Civil War was fought for the right of states to protect its rights to have slaves.
In November 1860, U.S. Senator Robert Toombs delivered a speech to the Georgia Legislature shortly after the election of Abraham Lincoln, accused Lincoln and the Republicans of having declared “war against slavery until there shall not be a slave in America, and until the African is elevated to a social and political equality with the white man.” For that reason, he urged his fellow Georgians to secede, telling them “it is your right to do so – your duty to do so.”
In 1962 it was placed atop the Statehouse in defiance of the Civil Rights Movement. It was moved to the Confederate soldier’s memorial in 2000 as part of a compromise.
Sometimes it takes context to begin to understand what something is about. That’s the case for me with the Confederate flag. Knowing part of the history helps me understand why the issue still remains high in the list.
After listening to the podcast and reading a bit more, I’ve been processing answers to the questions tweeted. We (black people) can’t just forget about the flag. However, it should not be the only issue that gets addressed. We can not rewrite history. Slavery did happen in this country. Slavery is a thread in the foundation of this country. We need to acknowledge and examine the practice of slavery as well as the Civil War.
There is no easy solution, hence the continued quest to completely remove the flag from the Statehouse grounds and place it in a museum. Will that ever happen?