Friday, February 16, 2007

Should Confederate flag still fly in S.C.?

Another question to think about: with America sharing a history with its southern states, should the American flag fly if the Confederate flag shouldn't?

By Wayne Washington

Political considerations color the divergent views of presidential candidates on whether the Confederate flag should be moved from the State House grounds.

For Republicans competing in the Feb. 2, 2008, GOP primary, where white voters will hold sway, the flag is a state issue that the candidates are not eager to discuss.

On the Democratic side, where half or more of the voters in the Jan. 29, 2008, primary will be black residents, candidates have no qualms about calling for the flag’s removal.

“Each side is playing to its basic constituency,” said Blease Graham, a political science professor at USC.

A 2000 legislative compromise moved the flag from the State House dome to the grounds, sparking questions about whether it should be removed entirely.

Among six top GOP contenders reached by The State, only U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., offered more than a suggestion that the issue should be decided by South Carolinians.

A Hunter spokesman, Roy Tyler, said his boss thinks South Carolinians should decide the issue, adding the congressman thinks the flag is fine where it flies.

“We’re talking about history here,” Tyler said. “We don’t think we should be slapping anybody’s history in the face.”


No candidate has been as wary of the flag issue as U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican whose 2000 campaign bus was dubbed the Straight Talk Express because he bluntly held forth on a number of issues, no matter how delicate.

But the Straight Talk Express took a detour when it ran into the flag. As he campaigned in the crucial S.C. Republican primary against then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, McCain declined to be drawn into the flag debate, saying it was a matter for state officials to decide.

After he lost, McCain said he didn’t address the issue fully because “I feared that if I answered honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary.”

McCain said he should have been more direct when asked about the flag, issuing a detailed statement noting his Confederate ancestry.

“Those ancestors of mine might have fought honorably, but they fought to sever the union of our great nation,” he said. “They fought on the wrong side of American history. That, my friends, is how I personally feel about the Confederate battle flag. That is the honest answer I never gave to a fair question. I believe the flag should be removed from your Capitol.”

Fast-forward seven years: McCain is no longer the maverick challenger. As his deep well of big-time GOP support in the state indicates, he is the establishment’s candidate this time.

Danny Diaz, a McCain spokesman, gave a brief statement when asked if the senator thinks the flag should be moved to a different location or remain where it flies.

“A bipartisan solution to this issue was developed by the General Assembly, and the senator applauds their efforts,” Diaz said.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the response of McCain and his fellow Republicans reflects the views of white GOP primary voters.

“Among white Republican primary voters, they either support the flag strongly or they don’t think it’s a big deal,” Sabato said. “It’s a classic case of a constituency driving candidate positions.”

Of McCain’s changing position, Sabato said: “That was when John McCain was running to win the media primary. Now, he’s running to win the Republican primary.”


Sabato and other political experts said the Confederate flag is a much easier issue for Democratic presidential candidates.

Seven top Democratic candidates reached by The State favor removing the flag from the State House grounds.

Lonnie Randolph, S.C. NAACP president, has argued for the flag’s removal, saying its location is an insult.

But some say other issues are more crucial.

Kendall Corley, a black staff worker for the Richland County Democratic Party, agrees with Randolph. But he wants the presidential candidates to address other pressing concerns.

“That flag is not high blood pressure,” Corley said. “That flag is not diabetes. That flag is not a lot of things that kill us every day.”

Still, some candidates may try to use the flag issue to score points with black voters, said Cleveland Sellers, head of USC’s African-American Studies program.

“But we have a sophisticated African-American electorate,” Sellers said. “They will be looking to learn how the candidates will address a variety of issues.”


Geoffrey S. Pittard said...

You are right. There are more economical and politically important issues, including many about health and the environment and our nation's dependence on foreign energy. Unfortunately these issues are only more important if you, as a person, believe them to be. Many others, including myself, do see the flag as an important issue. I support its flight, not out of any racial interests, but because the heritage of the Southern States should be remembered just as the revolution from the British should be remembered. The South as a whole was not evil, simply having what is quite apparent to us as an inhumane institution during this time frame.
As long as we allow our history to be shunted to the side, we will forget the lessons we have learned from it. The flag should not even be considered offensive by Americans (notice i do not refer to them as African Americans, since if I cannot be a Confederate American, they should not be African any longer either.)
Approximately 80,000 blacks fought for the Confederacy (the north had approximately 200,000). They were regiments of free and non-free men, and some owned their own slaves. Many "slaves" went into battle beside their owners and served valiantly in support roles and sometimes as fighters themselves. The flag should not be removed from the capitol, nor should we force any state to remove it. It is not only an insult to the whites who fought for state rights (even should it include slavery, but to the blacks as well. This is after all a country of majority rule and minority voice. Seems we as a nation have forgotten that in our quest to be morally correct and to make amends for past transgressions. Its been nearly 150 years. Segregation did continue until nearly 50 years ago but when will it be enough?
When will my children have the right to better education, government grants, assistance? The last group to be discriminated against is the southern white. Unfortunately this seems true, even if it may not strictly be. If you are a white male, odds are that you will be discriminated against as others attempt to reverse what society considers previous racism by giving jobs based not on skills and attitude but based on a little section that asks your ethnicity and gender.
Dr. Martin Luther King once dreamed of an equal society. We will not have that until persons in this nation are required to perform for their money instead of being given it due to race or gender. I understand some assistance for the poverty stricken or disabled or elderly; However, when that aid is expanded to the point where it encourages people to live off the system, it is a detriment to society rather than an aid. All races do this in this country, but the minorities have a larger percentage of it proportionally going to them. I've had many friends who were minorities and most have agreed fundamentally with me but that did not stop them from capitalizing on our welfare state system. I can understand that too. I do not blame them directly.....

Oops, got a little carried away on several topics. Could have gone on for a while there. You get the picture. Its all inter-related, just a shame that the black community does not realize the whole story, they just feed off grand standers like Jesse Jackson. They will not see the end until they themselves rise up to stop begging or accepting help. They don't need help anymore, they are the makers of their own destiny and that destiny should include contributing to this nation not detracting form it in debates such as these. Speaking as a fellow Christian Rev. Jackson is not very Christ-like nor is he very reverent but his judgment will come not from my lips (or hand in this case). May God Bless him and all the people who would vote to make this a nation of many equal parts, not a nation of divisions in power, aid, money. Amen.

P.S. Do a search on Black Confederate. Pulls up some interesting stuff. also check out the Shades of Grey website.

Brother Spotless said...

You won't get an argument from me concerning Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or any of our so-called black leaders. However, some of your statements, Mr. Pittard, are indeed...questionable.

-For starters, while everyone is discriminated against at least once in their lives, statistics don't prove that happens to whites more than blacks.

-It is true that there were slaves who fought for the Confederacy. However, one of the major reasons that the Confederacy was formed was to continue slavery. Understanding that, I don't see any reason for a slave to fight for the Confederacy unless he/she (more than likely he in this situation) was forced to do so.

-And yes, it is true that there were black individuals who owned black slaves. But when we look back and take note of history, we can't let those very few individuals cloud the true picture of that point in time, which shows a nation that possessed no respect for an entire group of people. Your premise, however, is true: understanding the entire story is an important undertaking for every American.

As far as the flag is concerned, my follow-up question alludes to my opinion that we, as black individuals, have to begin to move beyond this age-old debate. It's hard, 1st because of the emotion many feel toward the entire slave issue, but 2nd (and more important to me) because it is a very good debate (as far as debates go). I believe that both sides have a good argument, and it's a pity that so much emotion is tied into it (on both sides). Alas, I enjoy a good debate, and I have to let this one die…

As this ties into leadership, the "old guard" (Dr. King, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, to name a few) got things done a certain way because that way was necessary during that time. But at that time, blacks were fighting for basic civil rights. So Marches on Washington, bus boycotts, and sit-ins worked in bringing national and international attention to the problem. However, the battle has shifted to other areas, and we're fighting using old methods. It's as if we’ve entered WWII using the "Redcoats" military formations.

Activists can’t lead; activists can merely shine a light on the subject. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are activists…

I don't mind airing dirty laundry, so I say with no remorse that our so-called leadership has led black people away from basic structures of life like self reliance and community building (both in social and wealth terms). Instead, we're fighting the likes of Don Imus as if he is George Wallace (former Governor of Alabama) and this is the year 1951. Times change, the struggle changes, so our battle plan must change (Sorry, I fell in love with my military analogies and probably used one too many military themes...).

Brother Smartness said...

Well said...