I didn’t call Joe Darby names

Just FYI, I never called the Rev. Joe Darby an extremist, or anything else unpleasant. I like Joe Darby. Nevertheless, he felt obliged to stick up for himself on our op-ed page today, to wit:

The State
’s editorial pages have been filled in recent weeks with
reactions to coach Steve Spurrier’s welcome comments on the Confederate
flag. They included columns by Brad Warthen, who supported the flag’s
removal but labeled the NAACP’s approach on the flag extreme, and Sen.
Glenn McConnell, who made the case for standing by the present flag
location and moving on.

gentlemen merit a response, and I offer it as a former first vice
president of the South Carolina NAACP and one of those who drafted the
resolution for the NAACP’s interstate tourism sanctions.

your turn first, Brad — hope you don’t mind an extremist using your
first name. I’d remind you that school desegregation, voting rights and
civil rights laws didn’t just spring into being because America’s
powers that be suddenly said, “Hey, I see something unjust, let’s fix
it!” We acted as a nation in the 1960s only when organizations like the
NAACP took aggressive action, ranging from lawsuits to civil
disobedience, to demand equity. They weren’t called “extremists” back
then, but “outside agitators.” History shows that we only change and do
the right thing when we’re compelled to act and have no choice, and
that’s true in the case of the Confederate flag.

Well, I haven’t used the word "extremist" lately in this context, but I think this is what he was referring to:

… But up to now, we might as well have been shouting at a stone wall.
The NAACP and its opponents were the only ones out there making any
news on the subject, largely because news coverage is attracted,
unfortunately, to conflict.

The extremes did such a great job of
hijacking this issue, it’s like they got together and worked it out
ahead of time between them. The rest of us are trapped in this comedy
of the absurd, with the entire country laughing at us. (Have you ever
heard of anything more pathetic than the city of Columbia spending
$15,000 in a ridiculously doomed effort to get people covering the
presidential primaries here to ignore the flag? We make ourselves into
a freak show, and we think they’re going to ignore it? Come on!)

By the way, this is our editorial position on the NAACP’s stance, in case you missed it.

There’s nothing extreme about the NAACP’s position on the flag. But its approach to doing something about it polarizes the issue in a way that makes any kind of positive action extremely unlikely.

Anyway, I would never want to see the flag come down because our state felt FORCED to do it, even if that were possible. If we don’t grow to the point that we are unified in WANTING to take it down, then nothing is really accomplished.

People keep saying that there are many more important issues to be writing about — education, economic development, etc. To which I can only say, Duh. Why do you think we write about those things, day in and day out?

But the flag is worth writing about, too, because the very attitudes and detachment from reality that keep it up there also keep us from dealing meaningfully with the challenges that keep us last where we should be first. But we have to make the decision to move beyond that self-destructive mindset ourselves. Nobody can make us do it; that’s a logical contradiction.

Rev. Darby compares the NAACP’s coercive posture on the flag (or rather, attempted coercive posture, since the boycott is a bust) to marches and boycotts back in the civil rights era, when it was necessary to make courageous stands against laws that denied black people the right to vote, the right to a good job, a right to be treated equally.

But there’s a big difference. When you have a concrete obstacle such as a law that says if your skin is this color, you can’t cross this line, then whatever means you use to remove that law, you’ve had a positive effect. A barrier removed is a barrier removed, however you get there.

But the flag itself, as a concrete object, doesn’t matter. It is, as some who want to dismiss the issue, just a piece of cloth. This is about the attitude that keeps the flag flying. We have to change that. If you get rid of the flag and the attitude is unchanged, all you’ve done is hide the attitude, which will continue to poison and confound all our best efforts to achieve consensus on addressing education, economic development, public health, etc.

Personally, I believe most of us have indeed grown beyond that attitude. But our Legislature won’t recognize that. Hence my speaking up on the flag, and encouraging others to do the same — somebody besides the obsessed types who always speak up. You know, the extremists.

13 thoughts on “I didn’t call Joe Darby names

  1. Michael Rodgers

    From above: “This is about the attitude that keeps the flag flying. We have to change that. If you get rid of the flag and the attitude is unchanged, all you’ve done is hide the attitude, which will continue to poison and confound all our best efforts to achieve consensus on addressing education, economic development, public health, etc.”
    I totaly agree. If think that the South Carolina NAACP called this attitude “Confederacy of the Mind” at the King Day at the Dome Rally in January 2007. In my opinion, this attitude encourages people to be racist, sexist, and ignorant.
    From an earlier posting: “One of the most tiresome traits of those who defend the absurd practice of flying the Confederate flag at our State House is their smug belief that THEY are great students of history, and the rest of us are — among our many faults — ignorant.”
    I totally agree. They should read South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession. I encourage you to print the declaration in The State sometime, so people can read it. Also, I believe that Jefferson Davis’ vice-president of the Confederacy made some important statement that the Confederate government was founded on the superiority of one race over another. Please print that statement too.
    Thanks for all your efforts to state the facts and to describe the issues. Getting the flag down is extremely important. Thanks again.
    Michael Rodgers

  2. Brad Warthen

    We’ve published it; I’ve written about it, etc., etc. I suppose we’ll do it again.

    Once again, though, flying the flag there is so crazy that the burden of argument should be on the ones who want to do it.

    But in South Carolina, it’s backwards. How many times do we have to point out that history IS history, and there’s no changing it to fit one’s fantasies?

    Anyway, here’s a link to the declaration. An interesting exercise for fantasists: keep searching on the word "slave," over and over.

  3. Michael Rodgers

    Yes, unfortunately, though, we have to change something (the flag is currently flying), so the burden is on us, the changers. I think perhaps we need some public forums to get the truth set out properly so we can move past it. The State newspaper, your editorials, and your blog are serving this purpose well, and hopefully we can get people at a public meeting with legislators, who seem to be ignoring this issue and/or caving to the secessionist special interests. The extremists will look foolish, and the moderates will figure out what the speech should be when the flag comes down.
    You’ve probably already done this, but maybe, taking a page from Thomas Friedman’s fantasy speech he wrote for President Bush recently, you could write a speech for Governor Sanford — what speech should he give when he signs the order to take down the flag? How should he characterize and describe “heritage” in a statesman-like manner, while he sends the flag from where it waves on the flagpole to a museuum or wherever?
    Also, thanks for linking to the declaration. My favorite part is: “They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes, and those who remain have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.” I mean it’s just too rich: “our slaves,” “their homes,” “books,” “insurrection.” It’s so, so, so, I don’t know the word — I just can’t imagine anyone ever saying this with a straight face.
    Thank you. I feel like saying good night and good luck, but I figure that should be your line. Keep up the good work, and thanks again.
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC

  4. Rickyrab

    Yeah, the Battle Flag ought to come down, because it is proving to be a bit too controversial and because its symbolism is quite awkward for present day South Carolina – it is a symbol of the old drive to retain the institution of slavery, which was demolished in the ruins of the American Civil War and which created a caste system based on the kidnapping of people from one part of the world so that people from another part could live a little better. I doubt that the friendly folks of South Carolina want to project an image of “let’s keep slavery at any cost” when that institution has been illegal for several decades (and sharecropping kinda counts as slavery, given that it’s debt peonage, so that’s why “several decades” and not “over a century”). Also, the Nazis like the flag – all the more reason why it should be taken down.
    As for us in New Jersey, we’ll keep the goddesses of Liberty and Prosperity by our helmeted shield, thank you very much.

  5. ed

    My first order problem with Joe Darby is the title “reverend” that has been conferred upon him by people who agree with him, and which has been endorsed through usage by “The State.” The over-used and under-defined term ‘reverend’ has also been conferred to the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, and it means about as much when it is used as a descriptor for them as it does for Mr. Darby: Which is essentially nothing but unearned respect and awe. I mean, can we be honest? Each of the aforementioned men including Darby may have preaching credentials in some church or other, but when they begin spouting their leftist and wrong-headed opinions about political matters, their preaching credentials have absolutely no bearing other than that they do ‘preach’ to us endlessly about their silly opinions. Joe Darby is wrong about nearly everything, but he is especially wrong about the NAACP’s general effectiveness or more specificallyDarby its’ ridiculous boycott. Darby shamelessly trades on, uses and depends upon the term ‘reverend’ to obfuscate issues, confuse people and muddy public discussion about important matters. He may be a ‘reverend’ when he stands in some puplit or other, but when he espouses the doctrines of the NAACP he’s just plain old Joe Darby. And his opinion is no better than any other if it isn’t correct. Ed

  6. ed

    I’ll go further. It’s high time we stop giving these do-nothing, say-anything race baiters a pass. I happen to agree with those who say that the Confederate Flag should be taken respectfully from the Statehouse grounds and placed in an honorable location. However, I want this to happen not because I think it’s wrong to be on the Statehouse grounds, but because I want to remove it as an excuse for people like Joe Darby, who depend upon these secondary and tertiary issues to cover their utter ineffectiveness as black leaders who do absolutely nothing to actually solve problems among black folks. Problems like fatherlessness and illegitimacy, drug abuse, poor academic performance and incarceration rates and poverty. Darbys’ time would be OH so much better spent if he’d lead on these issues and drop his ridiculous boycott. I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin. Ed

  7. ed

    More specifically, the term ‘reverend’ has been endorsed through usage by Brad Warthen (see above). Brad, I’m not trying to be combative, but I do have an honest question…why do YOU call Joe Darby reverend? Is it because everyone else does? Is it because he wants you to? If it IS because he wants you to, have you (or anyone else on the staff) ever done any sort of research to determine exactly what qualifies him for this title? Or, do you use this term just because he has signed his submissions for publication in the paper as “Reverend Joe Darby” and you’ve simply accepted it? The point I am clumsily trying to make is this: Is it really legitimate for a man of the cloth to operate in and under what is essentially a religious title when he is outside any religious setting and is espousing opinions and admonishments that are almost purely secular in nature? I’m not saying preachers oughtn’t comment upon secular society, the bible is full of judgements on the ethics and morality of society, and preachers ought to say what “thus sayeth the Lord.” However, there’s a big difference between that and using a questionable religious title as a badge and permit to pontificate and espouse NAACP doctrines. Ed

  8. Link

    Do you think the title of “reverend” should
    be confered on the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell?

  9. ed

    Certainly not if they do what Darby does…spout secular opinion and admonishment under the aegis of a religious title. I don’t care who does it, it’s wrong. Ed

  10. ed

    OK, he’s got credentials and his title is genuine. I appreciate that you actually did the research to find this out. And I still thing he’s just plain old Joe Darby when he spouts NAACP doctrines. Using the word ‘reverend’ before his name does nothing in my view to legitimize his purely secular rants, and I think it’s really sort of cheesy and small of him. Ed

  11. Tom

    Previous post:
    “One of the most tiresome traits of those who defend the absurd practice of flying the Confederate flag at our State House is their smug belief that THEY are great students of history, and the rest of us are — among our many faults — ignorant.”
    I totally agree. They should read South Carolina’s Declaration of Secession. I encourage you to print the declaration in The State sometime, so people can read it….
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC

    Please print this also…
    …as this is what the men honored by the memorial were fighting against-
    William T. Sherman:
    * “The government of the U.S. has any and all rights which they choose to enforce in war – to take their lives, their homes, their land, their everything….to the persistent secessionist, why, death is mercy, and the quicker he or she is disposed of the better”
    * “extermination, not of soldiers alone…but of the people”
    * “There is a class of people men, women and children, who must be killed or banished before you can hope for peace and order.”
    * “Those side issues of n[-word], State rights, conciliation, outrages, cruelty, barbarity, bankruptcy, subjugation, &c., are all idle and non-sensical. The only principle in this war is, which party can whip.”
    * “When the people of the South tried to rule us through the negro, and became insolent, we cast them down, and on that question we are strong and unanimous. Neither cotton, the negro, nor any single interest or class should govern us.”
    “us” as in Northern Empire

  12. Michael Rodgers

    Yes, the Confederate Memorial should reflect the reasons that the soldiers fought. These reasons are distinct from, but in some ways related to, the reasons offered by the Confederate leaders in the Declaration of Secession. When it comes down to it all soldiers fight for their unit (for the person to their left, and for the person to their right) and for their family.
    Yesterday was Confederate Memorial Day, and I hope that in the future, we can celebrate this day instead of feeling embarassed by it. Honoring dead soldiers and respecting their families are good things. And the US is better for having fought the Civil War — we’re more united, and we have the 13th – 15th amendments, the Emancipation Proclamation, etc.
    I think that the Confederate Memorial should be changed, and some things should be added to it and some things should be removed from it. I think a commission should be formed to study the Confederate Memorial, and the commission should have, at the very least, input from artists and historians.
    I hope that the commission recommends removing the Confederate flag from where it flies on a flagpole on the Statehouse grounds. I feel that by flying the Confederate flag from the flagpole from the Statehouse grounds, our SC legislature is sending embarrassing (to say the least) messages, which detract from the legacy of the soldiers who would otherwise be honored by Confederate Memorial.
    Our legislature is not following the advice of historians and artists; instead the legislature is following the wishes of people with a political agenda (surprise, surprise). This (and related and opposing) political agenda are causing political divisiveness and contributing to racism and ignorance. This focus on sending (and receiving and supporting and transforming and fighting) political messages (by flying the Confederate flag from a flagpole on the Statehouse grounds) detracts from the purpose of the Confederate Memorial and of Confederate Memorial Day. We end up focusing on today’s arguments instead of on yesterday’s sacrifice.
    Michael Rodgers
    Columbia, SC


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