I’ve been writing OpEd columns for The Edgefield Advertiser for a little over a year now, covering many subjects generally from a more liberal viewpoint than you might find in other area newspapers. I wrote one last October about the Confederate flag and the heritage we all have here in Edgefield County. This is my home, and I’m actually the eighth generation of my family living within a radius of 15 miles, since before there was an Edgefield. Members of my family fought under the British flag in the French and Indian Wars, the Confederate Flag during the Civil War, and the American Flag in almost every war from the Revolution to Desert Storm, and we always returned home to Edgefield County when the war ended. I respect the flags my ancestors fought under while defending our home, including the British and Confederate flags, but the only one I revere is the one I myself fought under: the American flag.
My extended family now extends across this nation, but in a very real sense, all South Carolinians are a part of my family, and I am a part of theirs. We have been together in this endeavor, here in what once was called Ninety-Six District, since our families arrived here whether thousands of years ago (for those of my family with “native American” heritage); hundreds of years ago as slaves, slave owners, or dirt farmers; or more recently as residents of some of our newer neighborhoods bordering Aiken County. South Carolina has several museums, and it’s not a stretch to consider them our family museums. Those other flags – British and Confederate – belong in our family museum, representing countries we used to be a part of, before we all became Americans. Causes lost to the American cause no longer need official commemoration by our state government, even though they form an important part of our family heritage.
The tragedy in Charleston last week, where one of our family brutally murdered nine other family members, should give pause to all South Carolinians. By most definitions, the killer was not insane but he was certainly most profoundly misguided. Part of that misguidance emanated from online “hate groups” whose warped world view centers on dividing some of our family from others, arguing the innate superiority of “us” over “them.” But another part of this misguidance was based on one particularly deep image of this division: the Confederate Flag. Unlike the British flag, the Confederate flag flies on our state capitol grounds, even still. And unlike the British flag, which should have an equal pull on our “Southern Heritage,” the Confederate flag has – like it or not – become a symbol and a rallying point for those who hate.
It is time for that flag to be consigned to our South Carolina family museums. It should come off our license plates, too. By a strange coincidence, the Supreme Court ruled just this week that Texas does not inhibit one’s “Freedom of Speech” by prohibiting the Sons of the Confederacy from having vanity plates containing their emblem, which includes the Confederate Flag. We in South Carolina have not taken the step Texas took, removing the Sons of the Confederacy from the groups with official state license plates. Now is the time for that move, too. Recognizing our heritage, our South Carolina family history, should be the purpose of our museums, not of our license plates.
I will close by asking each of the three members of our state legislative delegation to go on record, to announce publicly where they stand on this issue: flying the Confederate flag on the capitol grounds, and keeping it as an option on our license plates. Changing either would require legislative action. Senator Massey and Representatives Hixon and Clyburn, where do you stand?
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Edgefield Advertiser.