The Confederate Flag: It’s Personal

By Marvin E. Adams

Marvin AdamsMarvin Adams is a parishioner of St. Anthony’s Parish in Washington D.C. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

As a native of South Carolina, I, along with many others, can relay an inordinate amount of personal stories relative to the Confederate flag. This past Friday, it seemed as if the entire world was tuned in to watch the furling of the iconic symbol, which for so many represents the worst of what America is. I have never bought into the lie of it representing heritage, states’ rights or any other nonsense perpetuated by those who would have us to believe their obfuscations. For me, and most African-Americans, it represents treason, hate and division–period, end of discussion.

I was too young to truly grasp the significance of why the flag was initially placed upon the Capitol dome of the Statehouse in Columbia in 1961. But as I grew older, I began to realize it was not by happenstance. It was done to taunt, intimidate and to declare to the entire country that South Carolina was not going to be dragged into doing the right thing with regard to the looming Civil Rights Movement. It is also important to note that the sitting governor when the flag was erected was Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, a Democrat. So as not to give my present day Republican friends any fodder for their talking points, it is also important to note that all of the Southern governors were Democrats during this time to include Maddox, Wallace and Barnett, of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, respectively. None of these individuals would be caught dead within the Democratic Party of today.

Shortly after the signing of the Civil and Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1965, respectively, a group of our parents decided it was time to integrate the school system in Florence. As a 10 year-old, I was informed that I would leave the confines of the nurturing and very progressive Holmes Elementary to attend the previously all-white McKenzie Elementary for the next school year. There were 15 of us young blacks in total who transferred. We were selected because we were considered the “best and the brightest.” We were also very well prepared for any and all contingences, having been apprised of the “Little Rock 9” and others who had preceded us from across the country.

The first few weeks of school came and went without much fanfare. But all of that changed on the third week. Theodore, a very close friend, and whose father a few years later would be elected as the first African-American member of the school board, came to me one day of that week with a very distraught look upon his face. I asked what was wrong, to which he handed me a note which read: “do not come to school tomorrow, the KKK will be here.” The note also had a rather crude depiction of the Confederate flag upon it as well. I responded by doing what any military brat would have done. I asked Theodore where he got this note. Subsequently, he pointed out the boy and I waited until he was alone. I confronted him and asked what time the KKK would be at school on the next day, because I wanted to make sure the Black Panthers and Muslims were there as well. The KKK never visited. That was the only school “incident” which transpired that entire year.

However, in the spring of that year, I made a little more history in the city when I became the first African-American kid to play baseball in the Dixie Youth Little League. I can’t speak to what happened the previous year(s), but I can say that almost every game I participated in that spring and summer, there were more than a few Confederate flags prominently displayed at Maple Park by some truly misguided individuals. Other than having heard the occasional “N-word”, that, too, was a relatively congenial experience.

Many years later as an Air Force captain, I was assigned to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. Upon arriving at the installation I began to see what I considered to be one too many Confederate flags being flown while attached to base housing. I took decisive action by going directly to the Base Commander to inform him that I considered the flying of such an abominable flag totally inappropriate and unacceptable to me, especially on a federal military installation. Much to my surprise he agreed, and to his credit ordered the removal of the flags. This was in 1988!

There has been much commentary concerning Governor Nikki Haley’s signing of the bill and subsequent removal of the flag from the Capitol grounds. What’s not been told is that since the flag was originally placed on the Capitol there have been 11 governors. Six have been Democrats and five have been Republicans. Governors Richard Riley, present mayor of Charleston (D, 1979-1987), James Hodges (D, 1999-2003) and David Beasley (R, 1995-1999) were the only ones who attempted to have the flag removed!  Haley actually ran both of her campaigns pledging to keep the flag in-place.

Now all of a sudden the national media, talking heads, pundits and seemingly everyone else is applauding her for doing what she did N-O-T have the courage or conviction to do earlier. Specifically, Chuck Todd and Ben Schreckinger of NBC and Politico, respectively, have pronounced that by signing the legislation, she has catapulted onto the national stage, again, and is primed to be considered as a possible running mate for the GOP nominee. To that I say, as Nellie would, “Hold up, wait a minute!” We are talking about Haley, the same governor who refuses to enact Medicaid expansion for her residents. This is the same governor, who as a minority should have been more sensitive to the concerns of almost 40% of her state’s residents, with respect to their displeasure with the flag and its placement.

The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, stated the system failed and allowed the perpetrator of the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. to purchase the gun used in the horrific crime. One can only imagine if Governor Haley would have acted sooner, by utilizing the power of her office if there would be nine individuals alive today in Charleston preparing for worship tomorrow.

Marvin E. Adams is a political strategist. Follow him on twitter @MarvinEAdams

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Published in: on July 13, 2015 at 11:39 am  Leave a Comment  

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