← Back to portfolio

Confederate Flag flap misses the point in Charleston shooting

Published on 30th July 2016 Commentary by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — I remember the flag controversy in South Carolina in 1995. There was a strong debate about taking the  Confederate Flag off the top of the statehouse. The flag had been put up there in the 1960s as part of a celebration of some kind. There were people who wanted it to come down because it had become a symbol of racism, while others wanted it to stay as a symbol of heritage.

By that time I had lived in Columbia, S.C. a couple of years, and to that point had never noticed the flag up there. It was rather small and up very high, so unless you were looking for it, you would not notice it in most cases. But it did become a point of contention.
The thing I remember most is the debate itself. For the most part people made their arguments, and eventually a compromise of moving it to the statehouse grounds was reached.

Also during that time, both sides held a rally on the statehouse grounds, at the same time on the same day. At one end were flag supporters, what many would call rednecks, proudly displaying their flag. At the other end were those that wanted the flag down, and a good majority of those were black people.

There was some concern among law enforcement, and they were plenty around just in case things got too testy, but both sides were on their best behavior. Both sides had speakers, music and all the rest. I also watched at the edges, where the two sides were close together, and both sides went out of their way to avoid problems.

I am a southerner, but I have never really understood the flag. Growing up, it was just a flag that meant rebelliousness, and nothing more. It was really kind of a joke.

But later on I did learn it was offensive to some people. I did understand the debate. There is the idea of preserving history, and the war between the states was about more than slavery. The bottom line to me was that it was offensive to a large section of the population, and therefore it should come off the state capitol.

I am not sure that helped with the problem of racism at all. In some ways I think we were better back then at working things out than we are now. I’m not sure two sides on any issue could hold a rally side by side at the same time and not have it get violent. That is where we have come in 20 years.

There was the shooting in Charleston last week that was horrible. It was racially motivated and shows that racism can rear its ugly head anywhere at any time.

Some want to use it to create gun control, while others want to use it as a reason to get more guns. One presidential candidate blamed the victims for voting against a bill that would have allowed guns in churches in South Carolina. One of the dead was a state representative. Still others wanted to use the event to promote the idea that Christians are under attack, even though the shooting had nothing to do with religion.

But plenty of people are talking about taking the flag down, and some are even blasting things like civil war re-enactments, which have nothing to do with race at all.

Yet no one is really talking about the real problem of racism.

Where is the voice of reason in all this?

Have we deteriorated that much since 1995?

I don’t see our society dealing with racism. I see people trying to use it for political purposes which makes this tragedy even worse.