South Carolina votes to remove symbol of hate

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On Wednesday, in the South Carolina House of Representatives, the debate wasn’t on whether to remove the flag or not, it was on an amendment to add an amendment to the bill on what to do with the flag once it came down. It was a shrewd move to keep the Confederate Battle Flag flying on the state capital grounds of South Carolina in Columbia — the Cradle of the Confederacy — for as long as possible.

So for 13 hours the House of Representatives in the Palmetto State argued and debated the fate of the Confederate Battle Flag and by 11 p.m. July 8, Representative Jenny Horne, a Republican and descendent of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, took to the podium and gave that body a piece of her mind about the flag.

This was a moment when the debate seemed stalled and those that wanted to keep the flag flying on the state house grounds had won the day, over every objection to that Confederate Battle Flag. A flag that every proponent claimed was a symbol of their heritage — that every racist in America claimed was a symbol of their heritage.

Tweet from Rep. James Smith, Wednesday Evening. (Twitter)
Tweet from Rep. James Smith, Wednesday Evening. (Twitter)

The life-long resident of South Carolina and daughter of the Confederacy had had enough. “The people of Charleston deserve immediate and swift removal of that flag from these grounds,” she said.

As she spoke Representative Horne became more impassioned, coming to tears with her voice growing louder and deeply passionate. “I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body, to do something meaningful, such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday.”

Moments after her extemporaneous speech in the chamber of the Republican-controlled South Carolina House of Representatives the amendment added to the bill to remove the flag was brought to a vote and it did not pass.

That didn’t need a two-thirds majority, but the bill itself, to remove the flag once and for all, did and early this morning, just a few minutes before 1 a.m. EDT, the House of Representatives followed the lead of the South Carolina Senate and passed the bill to have the flag removed on Friday. Governor Nikki Haley will sign the bill this afternoon and they plan to have a ceremony to remove it.

That flag doesn’t need a ceremony, it doesn’t need any more press than it has already received. Someone should go out to that monument to the Confederate soldiers in the darkest hour of the evening, when no one is watching, and remove that flag.

One hundred-fifty years after the Civil War, 52 years after the civil rights march on Washington — The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom — 50 years after “Bloody Sunday” and the March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama; 51 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act and 50 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, the state of South Carolina voted to let go of its past, a history that was filled with hate and bigotry and for a long four years, armed treason against the United States.

For years — decades — proponents of the Confederate Battle Flag have been claiming, “It’s part of our heritage.”

Well, Representative Horne had something to say about “heritage”. “I’m sorry, I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage. I am a lifelong South Carolinian and I am a descendent of Jefferson Davis, okay, but that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne, it’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the state house grounds.”

The apologists for the Confederacy and the flag all of them adopted as a symbol of their identification with that regime of hate and bigotry, will tell you now that hey! It was a Battle Flag, not the flag of the Confederacy! Maybe not 154 years ago when it was first created, but all of those people who adopted that flag as the preeminent symbol of the Confederacy made it the flag of the Confederacy when they began displaying it every where they could. They made it the flag of the Confederacy and now to try and rewrite recent history and say it was never that, that South Carolina didn’t start flying that flag in 1961 as a protest to desegregation, a “middle finger to the federal government,” as columnist Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post put it.

On June 29, Bree Newsome climbed that pole and removed the flag. She and one of her companions were arrested once she came down from the pole. (YouTube)
On June 29, Bree Newsome climbed that pole and removed the flag. She and one of her companions were arrested once she came down from the pole. (YouTube)

Proponents said it was raised above the capital of South Carolina to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War and originally it was only supposed to be there for a year. But then they kept it and passed laws to ensure it would never come down.

Fifteen years ago when the legislative bodies in South Carolina moved it from the capital dome to the soldiers’ memorial, they thought for sure a bill to remove the flag would never reach the two-thirds majority threshold needed to remove it.

But then a racist with a gun killed nine people in a famous and historic Black church in Charleston, one of whom was a pastor and a member of the South Carolina Senate, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. For people like Rep. Jenny Horne enough was enough, the flag had to go.

Horne said exactly what many in South Carolina knew and others denied: the Confederate Battle Flag, which so many Southerners adopted as the Confederate flag — and please don’t lie and say you didn’t — was, and is, a symbol of hate. The Cradle of the Confederacy finally did the right thing.

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This morning (Friday, July 10) the flag was removed in a ceremony conducted by Governor Nikki Haley.