South Carolina has been my home since 1999 and the past few weeks have made me very proud to be a resident of the Palmetto state and more importantly, a resident of the South.
People who don’t live in the South think TV shows like The Dukes of Hazzard and Andy Griffith pretty much characterize how we live on a day-to-day basis. But they couldn’t be more wrong and the recent actions that have taken place in South Carolina should give people a glimpse at what life is really like below the Mason Dixon line.
In my opinion, Southerners are some of the least racist people in the US and to prove that you just have to look at how South Carolina reacted to the recent killings of 9 members of the Emanuel AME church in Charleston.
Instead of starting a ‘race war’, as the evil perpetrator had hoped, the aftermath of that senseless act of violence showed how true southerners come together in times of crisis.
White and Black citizens of Charleston stood arm-in-arm in the wake of the church shootings and showed the world that Good can triumph over Evil. This sort of solidarity and healing couldn’t have happened in an area of the country struggling with unresolved racial issues.
Then, less than a month after the mass murders, the state of South Carolina voted overwhelmingly to remove the confederate battle flag that has flown over the statehouse and statehouse grounds for 54 years.
Full disclosure – I support the removal of this confederate battle flag from South Carolina state house grounds and have since I moved down here. Nobody loves southern heritage more than I do and if you want to fly a confederate flag from your car or house in support of that southern heritage (and not because of the racial hate that some evil people have turned that flag into) then go for it. But the uncomfortable truth is that the confederate battle flag has unfortunately morphed into a symbol of hate and it has no place on state grounds.
This flag itself shouldn’t have ever been a symbol of hate but because many racist groups like the KKK adopted it years ago, the flag, which should’ve been a symbol to remind us of our heritage, was co-opted into a symbol of hate that deeply offended people.
The Nazi flag uses a swastika that is actually a sacred Hindu symbol (which I saw many times when I visited India) but unfortunately a group of evil folks in the 1930’s turned something that symbolized good fortune into something synonymous with pure evil and you won’t see a swastika flying over the German parliament in support of their heritage.
This decision to remove the confederate battle flag didn’t come about in some dark of night, rushed legislative vote but after many days of public debate. Republican and Democratic State House and Senate representatives engaged each other in typical southern fashion with emotional and well thought out arguments.
The debates weren’t confined to the State House either. All South Carolinians took a fresh look at the flag and debated with their fellow residents anew. This debate occupied not only our social media interactions but also conversations at water coolers all across the state.
But this is how we do things in the South. There aren’t many passive aggressive people down here and we are very comfortable with conflict. It’s true, we’re very friendly down here and say “Bless your heart” a lot to the Yankees who just don’t get us but make no mistake, we love a good argument.
Unless conflicts are brutally hashed out, they will never be resolved. The conflict is uncomfortable, painful even, but it is necessary to move forward. And this is just what the South did decades ago with their racial issues.
The rest of the US had very similar racial issues but unlike the South, they were unwilling to confront them in the open and this is why I say the racial problems in this country are mainly in areas outside of the Deep South. The rest of the country still has racial issues to resolve but they’ve taken the less confrontational approach to dealing with them and this is why they’re still unresolved.
Don’t believe me? Compare and contrast the way events in South Carolina played out after our racial violence with the way cities like Baltimore and Ferguson dealt with their recent racial issues.
Over the past few weeks there were no riots in South Carolina. There was no need to call in the National Guard. No curfews were imposed. No looting. No destruction of property.
That crap happens in areas where there are still racial issues that have been swept under the rug and that situation doesn’t exist in the South.
I love the South. We work hard. We play hard. We eat hard. We drink hard. We argue hard. We’re comfortable confronting the brutal facts and even more comfortable voicing our opinions in open debate. That makes for some uncomfortable conversations but in the end it makes for a much better place to live.