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Glory, Hallelujah!

The Rebel Flag still flies in front of the South Carolina Statehouse. I’ve been slow to comment on this despite being very passionate about the issue as a Son of the New South for one simple reason – this is playing out in a very complex and different way this time. Change may be coming, and Dixie may finally be gone with the wind.

When Dylann Roof opened fire in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, he was hoping to start a new Civil War, according to his manifesto. It seems that in some ways he did, and like the last Civil War 150 years back the result appears to be the same – a society built on the twin pillars of oppression and privilege must fall. The victims’ families, like the truest of Christians, forgave his actions but around them a movement has grown to insure that what Jon Stewart called the “racist wallpaper” is taken down, encouraging no one to follow suit.

The Rebel Flag still flies in South Carolina - for now.

The Rebel Flag still flies in South Carolina – for now.

Followers of the Rebel Flag controversies know that this has been a decades long struggle. When it was removed from South Dade High School football games in the 1970s the fight was bitter. When South Carolina lowered the flag from the top of the Statehouse in 2000 the compromise merely planted it on its own poll in front. The state of Mississippi rejected an effort to strip the emblem from its state flag in 2001 by a nearly two to one margin.

Through it all, I have always had one comment. It’s one of two things – either the war is over and you take down the flag, or the war is still on and it’s time for some of us to suit up in blue like my great-great-grandfather and teach you bastards the same lesson we did the last time you pulled this crap.

While that makes for good schtick, I know it’s more complicated than that. I grew up in the South, or something like it, in the swampy nether reaches of Florida south of Miami as the son of “carpetbaggers”. I saw how racial healing came in fits and starts, sometimes with a high-five and sometimes through court order. Race based fights, when they came, were always viscerally violent and tore at the guts of the community.

Many hands make lighter work.  Many different hands make the work a triumph.

Many hands make lighter work. Many different hands make the work a triumph.

What we called the New South in the 1980s was a different place. People about my age were able to talk about this as something like brothers and sisters regardless of the color of our skin. Having seen this go down the way it did we wanted no part of the “heritage” that divided and suppressed. We knew that if the South was indeed to rise again it would have to do so united and free, working together hand in hand.

The South did rise, but it is still divided. That is, perhaps, until today.

Though there was a New South, it didn’t naturally include all of Dixie. South Carolina in particular has always been something of a “special child” to my generation, the unreconstructed back channel that somehow just didn’t get it. We all saw the Rebel Flag flying proudly there and usually shook our heads and just let it go. Yes, it’s easy for a white boy like me to have this attitude, coming from privilege, but I always had the feeling that blacks in South Carolina who had to live with this crap had a similar feeling. You have to pick your fights one at a time – you can’t just change everything at once, it seemed to go.

Perhaps we were wrong. Today, it looks like you can change an awful lot all at once. When a man who was a servant to no one but God was gunned down in church alongside those he prayed with the real horror of oppression became clear. That’s what it apparently took.

"Free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!"

“Free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!”

The Rebel Flag may finally come down, but not because we suited up in blue and sang “Glory, Hallelujah” one more time. The people of South Carolina, black and white, have apparently had enough. Those of us on the outside can keep the pressure up to make sure that the Palmetto State fully rejoins the union after seven score and fourteen years denying reality.

It is time for the potential of the New South to be realized. It is time for everyone to join hands and make it happen. We can do this, well beyond Dixie and all across the nation where harsh lines of black and white have drained the bright colors of prosperity and happiness from the lives of far too many of us.

We shall overcome. We must overcome. We have no choice left but to overcome and take strong action that shows our fearless resolve. The flag must come down and the symbols of oppression must fall all over this land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord, he is tramping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.

It’s been a long time coming. Let’s finally make it happen.

10 thoughts on “Glory, Hallelujah!

  1. Good post. I’ve always tended to think of South Carolina as a atavistic place, at least politically. But the purveying of hate for cynical political purposes is far from limited to the South. There are a lot of scumbag political actors, mostly Republican, who should rightly be in the dock for this outrage.

    • Racism is indeed everywhere. In the South I feel there are indeed people who have been through the worst and as such are the very best at talking through it and overcoming it. But the scene still carries many things like the Rebel Flag that encourage racism more than anywhere else. Getting through that will only bring out the best, at least in the long run. My experience growing up in court ordered desegregation shows that affirmative action to stop racism really does work.

  2. I simply cannot believe that flag is allowed. It’s a flag of treason first & whatever else people claim it represents second. If you love America you won’t fly that flag, period.

  3. Had the Republican party been able to establish a viable 2 party system in the 5 decades after the civil war, then southern whites would have been reconstructed to a larger extent.

    The Republicans tried and we should remember all those black voters and black legislators and executive office holders from those early years after the civil war up until about 1892 but the whites in the north eventually lost interest in what was going on in the south. In the south there was always some election crisis or riot or whatnot but what they needed was help in addressing from outside of the region.

  4. “The Mississippi Plan

    Mississippi Democrats known as White Liners (white supremacists) organized rifle clubs and militia groups and began drilling and parading through black communities. They broke up Republican meetings and provoked bloody riots. For example, in Vicksburg in December 1874, the White Liners demanded the resignation of the town’s black sheriff, Peter Crosby (1846–1884). When an unarmed group of blacks showed up to support Crosby, a white mob attacked them, then went on a rampage through the countryside, killing over three hundred blacks. At the polls, armed guards prevented blacks from voting or forced them to vote for Democrats. Economic forms of coercion were also used, as blacks were threatened with the loss of their jobs—or even the denial of medical treatment—if they voted for Republicans.
    Mississippi governor Adelbert Ames (1835–1933) was shocked by these developments, but felt powerless to stop them. He issued a proclamation ordering the private militias to disband, but it was ignored. Ames appealed to President Grant to send federal troops to help stem the violence, but the  |  request was refused. As noted in The Era of Reconstruction: 1865–1877, Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont (1817–1892) informed Ames that people were “tired of these annual autumnal outbreaks in the South.” This was yet another indication that Northern interest in the South and the problems of Southern blacks was waning.”

  5. Pingback: Fight it with Funny | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

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