“THERE ARE MUCH BIGGER RED FLAGS THAN THIS ONE …”
|| By MIA McLEOD || On June 17, life as we knew it, changed forever.
And although Mr. Dylann Roof intended to start a race war, he failed to realize one important fact.
The war in South Carolina has always been about race.
The confederate flag simply symbolizes the divisive, race-based hate that plays out in our policies, our practices and our politics. We’ve long-since turned a blind eye and refused to even acknowledge – let alone accept personal responsibility for the impact that our racist attitudes and actions have had on the “minority” in this state.
From “packing” swing Districts like mine with black voters to marginalize our voices to forfeiting billions of federal dollars by refusing to expand Medicaid, this state has led the fight to secede from anything authored, championed or supported by “the black man in the White House.”
And while the confederate flag is one symbol of racism, hatred and division, don’t be confused. When it comes to strategically and systematically oppressing a population of people solely on the basis of race, there are much bigger red flags in this state than that one.
So when the confederate flag finally comes down, we may have won the battle. But if we don’t change our attitudes, actions, policies and policy-makers … we will have lost the war.
I commend the Senate for voting overwhelmingly to bring the confederate flag and the flagpole down. But today, some House Republicans have come up with countless “compromise” amendments to replace it.
What’s up with this never-ending nostalgia for all things confederate? Flag supporters should pay homage to their heritage where we pay homage to ours … in history books and state museums.
Seems like the folks who claim they want elected officials who have the courage to do what’s right instead of what’s politically expedient are the same ones who now threaten their legislators to protect the status quo or risk being “unelected.”
So what if we get primary opposition. The seats we occupy aren’t ours. They belong to the people of South Carolina. So too, does the State Capitol and the grounds on which it sits.
Meanwhile … black and white lawmakers who support the flag’s removal continue to receive death threats and hate mail.
We have a real opportunity to do the right thing for once, in our sordid history. But that requires courage because nothing really changes in this state until we do.
Truth is … their heritage has always overridden our history. Their pride has always trumped our pain. That has always been “the compromise.”
But no more.
Gone are the days of playing partisan race-based politics that give the illusion of inclusion, but offer no real substance behind the rhetoric.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve mourned the loss and celebrated the life of our fallen comrade, Sen. Clementa Pinckney, and eight others whose lives were senselessly and tragically cut short because of the color of their skin.
I’ve already held four race-relations town halls this year and answered questions of white legislative colleagues who just wanted to know …”why are you still bringing this ‘race stuff’ up? If you keep reminding us of the past, how are we ever gonna move forward?”
Exactly. If you keep reminding us of the past, how are we ever gonna move forward?
Barely three weeks after “the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken,” governor Nikki Haley has already directed state agencies to resume their scripted greeting, ”It’s a great day in South Carolina.” But it’s not a great day and won’t be until that flag and the apparatus that supports it, comes down.
This is our moment, South Carolina. The world is watching. We must seize it or lose it. This is about our future, not our past. Bringing our state and all of its citizens into the 21st century is the goal – where there’s unity, peace, hope, optimism, opportunity – and liberty and justice for all.
I rarely stand united with Governor Haley on anything. But today, I’m proud to stand with her, as well as with former Governors and Congressional, business, government and community leaders who have publicly called for the flag’s removal so that we can move all of the people of South Carolina forward.
Just three short weeks ago, when bullets pierced their bodies and our hearts, none of the things that usually divide and separate us mattered. We understood that we’re all part of the human race and that regardless of ethnicity, political party, gender, socio-economic status or politics … our “fabric” is uniquely interwoven and inextricably intertwined by God Almighty, our Divine Creator.
And for the first time ever, we acted like it.
We’ve heard so much about the honor, dignity and courage of your ancestors. Honor their memories and service today by showing the world yours.
Our future no longer has to be tainted by our past. The confederate flag and the flagpole must come down.
That, and only that, is the compromise.
Mia McLeod represents District No. 79 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.