The South Carolina Confederate Flag’s Days Are Numbered

The question of whether the Confederate Battle flag should remain on the grounds of the state capital is now a campaign issue. Well, it’s always been an issue since it was removed from atop the State House in 2000. Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Vincent Sheheen, is running on a platform that includes the permanent removal of the flag.

I want to highlight this issue because I believe that the future of South Carolina is what this governor’s campaign should be about, but more importantly than that, what the business of this Statehouse should be about,. If we’re going to move forward, we’re going to have new leadership and new symbols and emblems to lead us in that direction.

He may not win and it may be this particular issue that sways voters. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. That a candidate for one of the two major parties (and for whatever reason) is campaigning on this issue suggests that we have reached a threshold among South Carolina voters when it comes to this divisive subject. No one should be surprised by this given the decision in 2000 and the broader push among white and black Southerners to remove Confederate Battle flags from public spaces.  Regardless of whatever else is going on in South Carolina, we can state with confidence that the flag’s days are numbered in South Carolina.

Heritage groups can raise as many flags as they want on private property, but this will never be an even swap in terms of its meaning and significance. Raising large Confederate flags along Southern highways and other places represents the values of the individuals responsible and no more. The removal of flags from public places, on the other hand, represents the values of the broader community – the will of the people.

27 comments… add one
  • Trueism Oct 2, 2014

    It is our (United States) history. Like it or not. Why do we segregate flags when we allowed slavery from the start of our nation. Our own great banner served to fly over a nation of slavery. A nation of compromises starting with the 35’s clause which is still in our great constitution.

    Perhaps we need this flag to remain as a reminder of what is good and what can be bad. Both of our flags served over nation that allowed this terrible institution, BUT many also who fought under those flags did not support slavery.

    I think that if we try to erase history and whitewash the truth then we are doing a disservice to all.

    While the Confederate flag may not be intrinsically racist, it represents the entirety of southern history, much of which was racist. There is a connection to racism and the confederate flag. People have the right to be offended, but they should not assume the motives of the person owning the flag, because it means something different to each person.

    The Confederate flag has changed greatly since its creation and is likely to continue to do so. There may come a day when the blatantly racist meaning of the flag fades away along with the scars of integration. Until that day comes, the responsibility falls upon Confederate flag flyers to explain what it means to them. As for the rest of us, we should keep an open mind, about a symbol that has stood for so much to so many, be it right or wrong. It aint the flag. It is how the flag is used and by whom. Frankly many of the hate not heritage agenda cause the problems for the flag. If Southerners done respect the flags, how can we expect ANYONE else to?

    • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2014

      I think that if we try to erase history and whitewash the truth then we are doing a disservice to all.

      I don’t buy this argument. No one is trying to “erase” anything. There are plenty of museums where you can go to learn about the history of real Confederate flags. This is a question of whether the Confederate Battle flag ought to be displayed on public grounds. That is a question for the voters to decide and not whether this history ought to be “whitewashed”.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Oct 2, 2014

        I have always been amused by the use of the term “whitewashed” in the context of a discussion about the Confederate flag and slavery. As for the original commenter’s point, it seems he advocates the display on public grounds of symbols that remind us of evil. I also love the use of the word segregate in this context. Wow.

    • Setting aside (briefly) the issue of racism and slavery, and the CBF is still a symbol of treason. It is inconceivable to me that any public space–most especially a seat of government, state or federal–should display such a symbol.

    • John Betts Oct 4, 2014

      It’s up to South Carolinians to decide this, but I can tell you that if I had a say in it I’d vote for removal. This isn’t about denying history or trying to cover it up. The CBF is proper in an historical display, but not in this context. This is a modern monument to the Confederacy that is improper in my view on state capitol grounds. The state capitol is for all residents of the state, not a special few, and should be open to all of them in reflecting their values. Not everyone finds the CBF a good reflection of their values particularly in this day and age. If it had been erected a century or so ago, and thereby had some historicity to it, I might feel a little differently but it’s not. Besides, it focuses on about 4 years of South Carolina history that while important and should be remembered, do not encompass all of it nor are reflective of the state as it is today.

  • Andy Hall Oct 2, 2014

    What’s more interesting here is what the incumbent, Nikki Haley, will say in response. If her challenger is actively campaigning on removing the flag — and especially if he seems to be getting traction with that position — then she’s going to be pressured to make a full-out defense of it — “heritage not hate,” and all that — and explicitly align herself with Confederate heritage groups. I’m not at all sure she’s willing to do that, and if she does it will be damaging for her prospects for higher office as a new, modern face for the GOP.

  • Spelunker Oct 2, 2014

    You’ve made a very valid point. By and large, the movement for the removal of the flags seems to be larger than the movement to see them stay. Society as a whole is deciding this issue. Personally, I have no problem with flags on private property. The issue it seems has always been about making public spaces more accommodating to a wide range of people. It’s true that these flags represent different things for different people which is why it’s unfair for people who don’t want to see them to be forced to “live with it”. Even though I fall into the camp where the meaning of the flag, to me, is a reminder of a past where humans were treated as farm equipment, a past that I feel is not something to be celebrated, I can also recognize to others it represents their ancestors past. Although I think their ancestors, and mine, were wrong, that does not mean I’m trying to force my beliefs on them. We can agree to disagree on what it represents while still recognizing that ones will should not be forced on another. I know what’s coming, “But you’re forcing your will on me.” No, I’m not. Society is speaking, and the facts say that overall the flags are being rejected. Let’s not forget, you have the right to raise as many flags as you want on your property, and if their removal from public spaces moves you to do that, so be it, knock yourself out!

    • Bill Oct 3, 2014

      Really? You conducted a survey? Is it a verified document, if so, I would like to examine it

  • It may or may not be removed but fear not we will always have Mississippi.

    • Andy Hall Oct 2, 2014

      Given how many measures Texas ranks 49th among the states in, I’m thankful for Mississippi, as well.

  • Connie Chastain Oct 2, 2014

    Is that a prediction? Like this one?

    “Prediction: There will be no Confederate flag on I-95 near Richmond.” K. Levin. Aug. 18, 2013

    • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2014

      You are right, Connie.

      I should have said: “…There will be no Confederate flag on I-95 near Richmond THAT CAN ACTUALLY BE SEEN.”

      • Well, Kevin you will always see it any place the Mississippi State flag is flown, you know like on federal property.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2014

          Yes, I know.

          • Jimmy Dick Oct 2, 2014

            Yes, everyone can see a symbol of racism proudly displayed on a state flag. It is an embarrassment to the US and people who love freedom, but it seems people who do not know their history and prefer a fictional heritage want that racist rag for a state flag.

          • “First, I was not speaking for any of my students. I was speaking for myself. There were no African-American students on this trip. In fact, we have very few African Americans in our school since it is a Jewish Academy. I do not understand why you continue to harp on this issue.”

            So you are speaking from the morale high ground? Are they no black Jews? Do y’all discriminate based on a person color or religion to attend your institution? And Jimmy where do you live? How many folks of color live in your neighborhood? I have quite a few in mine and I fly the CBF, 1st National, 3rd National, Mississippi State and the US flag and I have had no problems with my neighbors.

            • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2014

              So you are speaking from the morale high ground?

              Yes, I am speaking from the moral high ground. (Note sarcasm)

              • Jessie Alan Sanford Oct 2, 2014

                “Yes, I know.”
                You are the one who included the link in your response. But you have not answered my questions. You can or not thats entirely up to you but may speak volumes about your mind set.
                Thank you for letting me speak.

              • Kevin Levin Oct 2, 2014

                No, I am not going to respond to such a ridiculous question. It speaks volumes about your mindset. I suggest you move to the topic of this post if you want to continue to contribute to this thread.

            • Jimmy Dick Oct 2, 2014

              The best use of the Confederate flag outside of a museum or reenactment is on a roll of toilet paper.

        • John Betts Oct 4, 2014

          For now, Jessie. Yet how long do you think Mississippi will be able to retain the CBF in their state flag with this symbol’s removal from public institutions throughout the South? I give it no more than 20 years. For what it’s worth though, I do believe this is something that Mississippians should decide for themselves even if I might disagree with them. Yet bear in mind that society is changing and what is decided one year can be changed later on – by Mississippians who themselves had changed.

      • Jimmy Dick Oct 2, 2014

        Now Kevin, you know the special people who have mental issues with American History are proud to fly a symbol of tyranny, oppression, and racism in places where it can’t be seen. Their other choice is to walk around it on sidewalks getting laughed at.

      • Brooks D. Simpson Oct 2, 2014

        Kevin will remember that I thought the flag would go up, and it did. So have two others. So what? Given the list of Flagger failures, I applaud them for deciding to do something that even they couldn’t screw up … although, in some ways, they still managed to botch it.

  • RH Flint Oct 2, 2014

    Based on this definition, it seems difficult to ignore slavery in the cultural heritage debate:

    “Intangible cultural heritage” consists of non-physical aspects of a particular culture, often maintained by social customs during a specific period in history. The ways and means of behavior in a society, and the often formal rules for operating in a particular cultural climate. These include social values and traditions, customs and practices, aesthetic and spiritual beliefs, artistic expression, language and other aspects of human activity. The significance of physical artifacts can be interpreted against the backdrop of socioeconomic, political, ethnic, religious and philosophical values of a particular group of people. Naturally, intangible cultural heritage is more difficult to preserve than physical objects.

  • Spelunker Oct 2, 2014

    I hear Sheheen is in BIG, BIG trouble now. There are people that are going to wave flags and sing “Dixie” to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget. LULZ!

    • Andy Hall Oct 2, 2014

      Yep. Sheheen has definitely lost the League of the South vote.

    • John Betts Oct 4, 2014

      What exactly is this lesson you think Sheheen needs to be taught?

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