Thursday, August 03, 2006

Flag Daze: South Carolina and That Whacky Confederate Flag

I was genuinely surprised to find out yesterday that the NCAA is considering expanding its ban of championship events in South Carolina because the flag of the former Confederacy is still displayed on Statehouse grounds. That is to say, I was surprised that the ban hadn't already been expanded.

The NCAA is responding (or rather, considering a response) to a request from the Black Coaches Association. Predetermined NCAA postseason events (e.g. conference championships, regionals, etc.) have been barred from the state since 2001. The NCAA is weighing whether or not to expand the ban to postseason events which individual teams in the state might host due to their regular season performance.

In 2000, the NAACP led an economic boycott of South Carolina because, at that time, the Confederate flag flew high over the state's Capitol dome. [Begin sarcasm] In an extremely bold and progressive move, the South Carolina Legislature voted, in the spring of 2000, to move the flag to the Confederate monument located in front of the Statehouse. Surprisingly, the NAACP was not satisfied. [End sarcasm]

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in 1860. Truth be told, they were pretty close to doing so in 1832, but, as they say, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. A scant 97 years after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, the Confederate flag was placed atop South Carolina's Statehouse dome in 1962, where it was to remain until July 1, 2000.

Many individuals, both inside and outside of South Carolina, claim that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol. They cite the flag's ties to an important part of Southern heritage. The Confederate flag is now displayed as part of a monument to soldiers of the former Confederate States of America. The vast majority of these soldiers were not Rhett Butler. Like most other wars, the have-nots get put on the front lines to defend the interests of the haves. I get that.
What these individuals do not seem to get, is that the Confederate flag is also inextricably linked to the institution of slavery, de jure racial segregation, and opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. These are not good things, and to display the Confederate flag anywhere near the Statehouse is, in my opinion, an implicit endorsement of this legacy. You can't have one without the other.

I'm a big fan of the Bill of Rights. I moved back to Louisiana in early 2006. Since that time, I have passed more houses than I can count whose owners choose to fly the Confederate flag. The First Amendment and I both say, "more power to you." Fly whatever flag you want. As long as you're not violating a content-neutral noise ordinance, you can sit in a rocking chair under that flag and sing "You Fought All the Way, Johnny Reb." If, however, "Trading Spaces" chooses not to use your home because you won't get rid of the Confederate flag hanging in your living room, I have no sympathy for you. Similarly, the NCAA is well within its rights not to allow its postseason games to be played in South Carolina until the Confederate flag is no longer displayed on top of, in front of, or around the Statehouse.

The athletes do not suffer under the current ban. They will not suffer if the ban is extended. They still get to compete, and there are worse things in life than having to play on the road instead of at home. The schools and cities just don't get the extra revenue that comes with hosting these events. This particular combination of "carrot and stick" which the NCAA is considering is no different, really, than the combo used by the federal government with respect to states, the combo used by state governments with respect to counties, and county governments with respect to municipalities. Withholding a benefit is not the same as a punishment under these circumstances.

I must confess, I still chuckle when I see a "You've Got Your X, I've Got Mine" baseball cap or bumper sticker. I first saw these on my way to Myrtle Beach in the spring of 1994, and I still think that's pretty clever. Tacit state endorsement of the Confederate "X" was, is, and always will be a different matter entirely.

Continuing to display the Confederate flag in front of the South Carolina Statehouse is not clever. It's offensive and shortsighted. The NCAA should have no qualms about playing hardball with the State of South Carolina on this issue.

This fight's been over for a long time, Johnny Reb.

1 comment:

concernedcitizen123 said...

Friend, you are greatly misinformed about slavery and segregation. 93,000 free blacks fought for the south, you can see so in the pictures from back then. The north had blacks too, but there was one visible difference. The northern army was segregated, but the southern WAS NOT. Then, after the north won, segregation went into law. Which flag first established slavery? USA. Which flag flew over slavery for 90 years before the south ever broke away? USA. Which flag had a segregated army up until 1970? USA. So, if you're gonna be pissed off at any flag, be pissed off at the stars and stripes, not the southern cross that tried to break away from it all. The south fought to free your ass from an oppressive government in washington that still rules you with an iron fist today and taxes you to death. You can't call the confederates traitors. Know why? Okay, if a man in government green breaks down your doors, threatens your family and says he's gonna take you over, and you shoot him, is that treason or is that protecting your home and family from a deadly invader? The south did not want to break away, the north forced them. You cannot be in union with an army marching in to take you over. That's not union by choice, that's union by force. What kind of partnership do you have if your "partner" is forced to be there? The history books are full of lies written by the north. If you sit down to write a book about your foes that all will read, are you gonna make them look good and yourself look bad? No, of course not, you're gonna make them out to be the worst monsters in the world. The US History has been written the way the US wants it to be, and not what the truth really is.