Mayor Riley, let’s march again

Former Gov. David Beasley joins Mayor Joe Riley on the last leg of the 2000 march.

Former Gov. David Beasley joins Mayor Joe Riley on the last leg of the 2000 march.

In 2000, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley led a march from his city to the Statehouse in Columbia to demand that our lawmakers take the Confederate flag off the dome over our seat of government.

They did — and then put it down on the lawn, behind the Confederate soldier monument. There, it is no longer in a position of false sovereignty. But it’s far more visible. Much more in-your-face.

Today, the mayor’s city is grieving because, authorities say, a young white man from Columbia went to Mayor Joe’s city to kill worshippers in a church that is unparalleled in its significance to black South Carolinians. After killing nine people, including a state senator who just hours before had been doing his duty in that very Statehouse, the gunman allegedly drove away in a car with Confederate flags on the front license plate.

Charleston and Columbia are at either end of an axis of sorrow and racial hatred. And while the U.S. and S.C. flags atop the Statehouse are at half-mast as an expression of true sorrow on the parts of most of our citizens, the Confederate flag still flies at the top of its pole.

It’s time for another march.

15 thoughts on “Mayor Riley, let’s march again

  1. bud

    It’s time for another march.

    For what? To strengthen gun laws? Absolutely. To call attention to the increased number of police brutality incidents against people of color? Perhaps. To draw attention to the plight of the poor who suffer because of the increasingly unfair economic system that shovels more and more wealth to the plutocrats who game the system? Sure. To support the University of South Carolina football team? Ok, maybe not so much, but that would be in good fun. To drag the long ago settled issue of where to place the Confederate flag? Pleez. Thousands of folks drive around with Confederate flag bumper stickers without ever shooting another human being. Let’s talk about issues of importance to the people of this state and quit wasting time on a non issue.

    1. Brad Warthen

      Bud, if all the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written about how that flag hurts the people of South Carolina have been lost on you, then it can’t be helped.

      At some point, it’s either obvious to you or not.

      Just as some people relate to words and not numbers, or vice versa, some people just don’t get the power of symbols, and how they affect reality…

  2. Karen Pearson

    Bud, the Confederate flag is a symbol. And symbols have power. That flag symbolizes racism and the evils associated with it far more than it does heritage these days. Many people in SC remain racist (and that’s why many support flying the flag while denying the reason). Others are just plain tone deaf and stone blind. But until and unless we confront the power behind that symbol and defeat it, we will deserve the shame it brings on this state.

  3. Peggy

    Cornerstone Speech in Savannah, Ga by Alexander Stephens in 1861
    “…Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. …”

  4. Mike Cakora

    As a newbie citizen of the Palmetto State when the flag compromise was enacted a decade or so ago, I thought it was reasonable, given the parties involved. But the fact that it’s not being flown at half-mast is either an insult or an indication that it’s not really a symbol of anything that’s relevant.

    So why not remove it or replace it with the ubiquitous SC flag “Tag Applied For.” And make it tan cardboard for authenticity…

  5. Brad Warthen

    Mike , as I say to people who say the flag doesn’t matter: If it doesn’t matter, then take it down.

    And if it DOES matter, then definitely take it down.

    Whatever the case, there’s no excuse for leaving it there…

  6. Phillip

    I understand Bud’s sense of frustration and I agree that simply removing a piece of cloth from the State House grounds is not going to do anything substantial in and of itself to directly address some of the real, and serious problems we face in this state. And certainly it cannot bring back the lost lives of two nights ago. But it’s the very smallness, the very simplicity of the gesture, the ease with which it could be accomplished (were the political will there), that makes it’s doing (the removal of the flag) important at this particular moment. Sometimes the symbolic can lead to an incremental change in the dynamics of a political situation. Horrifying as this crime was, or the earlier shooting in North Charleston, these awful events present our state with the opportunity to clearly make a statement of what we believe is right and decent.

    1. Bart

      As usual Phillip, very well said. Symbols can be a source of pride, anger, joy, revenge, love, and hatred, it all depends on one’s point of view or ideology.

      The pure historical aspect of the flag is understandable and to a degree, the rebellious spirit of the South represented by the flag has been co-opted by racist, white supremist groups across the nation as a symbol of their own rebellion and racist attitudes. Once a symbol has been co-opted for hate and used for that purpose, it no longer holds the same significance it once held.

      Now, the flag is an even greater embarassment and a symbol of everything America does not stand for. It should be taken down immediately and if our elected representatives had the courage to take a stand and have it removed immediately, as you said, the gesture alone would send a message so sorely needed by the state of South Carolina in wake of this evil act of slaughter. If we don’t take a stand now, what will it say about the good and decent people of South Carolina who abhor what happened and want to shed the image this state has succeeded in developing by indefensible actions like keeping the flag flying on state grounds.

      Maybe it is time for another march in support of immediately removing the Confederate battle flag.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Phillip, here’s the thing that I’ve tried hard to explain in the past.

      It’s not about the flag. The flag, if it comes down, will be a sign that we have come together as a people in a concerted effort to be better together than we have been in the past. And that bodes well for dealing with all the issues that Bud cares more about.

      The flag issue isn’t about the flag. It’s about becoming, together, the kind of people who will NOT fly it on our state’s official lawn. Instead of being what we have been, the kind who WILL fly it…

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    There is a rally against the flag’s flying scheduled for the State House grounds tomorrow (Saturday) at 6 PM.

  8. Doug Ross

    Is the flag taken down daily? If it is, why not stage a peaceful protest with people linking arms in concentric circles around the pole when it is down and prevent it from being raised — at least for one day. Imagine the visual of blacks and whites united, arm in arm, creating a wall. Which white politicians would have the guts to join the circle?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      That’s a nice thought!
      James Smith has certainly stood for taking the flag all the way down.

  9. Bart

    With all hope and prayer, the flag will finally be taken down very soon. When it happens, I would like to ask everyone who insisted on leaving it up, why did it take the slaughter of 9 innocent worshippers to finally bring them to the realization that it should have been removed long ago?

    Most South Carolinians consider themselves to be Christians and if they truly are, then they will have no problem releasing the belief that the Confederate flag is not offensive and it does offend fellow Christians whether they are black or white because of what it now represents in mainstream America.

    At one point, I believed the compromise was enough to satisfy the call to remove the flag from the top of the Capital Building. After reading my Bible and understanding what my duties are as a Christian believer, to support leaving the flag flying on state government grounds that creates anger and hatred is wrong. It hurts no one to remove the flag and if anything will demonstrate a willingness for most but not all South Carolinians to come together and support an action that can go a long way toward healing wounds that go deep into the souls of our black brethren.

    The Civil War is over. The old saying depicted by a short Confederate soldier, “Forget Hell”, is outdated and needs to be put away with the Confederate flag. It is time for Southern Pride to take on a new meaning, one that represents the best things the South has to offer, not the worst.

Comments are closed.