Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gubernatorial candies weigh in on Confederate flag controversy

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 9:00 AM

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. It's an election year after all, so it was bound to happen: The issue of what to do or what not to do with the Confederate flag has come up again. Sigh.

At a recent Democratic Party debate, the three gubernatorial candidates, state Sen. Robert Ford, state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen were asked about the much maligned Confederate flag monument at the Statehouse.

According to an AP report:

Rex and Sheheen also agreed that the next governor should work toward a new compromise that would move the Confederate battle flag from the memorial in front of the Statehouse to another site, while Ford did not.

"I like the flag where it is now," Ford said, adding that he worked on the old compromise that removed the flag from the Statehouse dome and placed it there. "If you revisit that issue, it will just put another scar on South Carolina's face."

The AP also has another recent article on the Confederate flag and the lack of outrage over it among the gubernatorial candidates:

Only two of the six Democrat and Republican governor hopefuls say they would consider moving the Confederate flag that flies in front of the South Carolina Statehouse...

The other two Democrats - Education Superintendent Jim Rex and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen - are open to talking about moving it. The four Republicans - U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Rep. Nikki Haley and state Attorney General Henry McMaster - said they doubt there's support to move the flag again.

"I think it's an issue that Republicans and Democrats, blacks, whites across this state had a compromise on and it's such a deep and divisive issue, I think there's other things we can do to move our state forward," Barrett said.

Moving the flag would take a minimum two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

"It's a discussion that we shouldn't have because the votes aren't there to have it," Bauer said. "And so all we're doing is putting ourselves in a national spotlight again for a battle that the outcome's not going to be different."

Haley said there is not enough support for moving it to bring a healthy debate on the issue.

"The practical side of me says it takes two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate," said Haley who, as an Indian-American, noted she could try to make sure the state doesn't lose business to the ongoing NAACP boycott.

McMaster said he considers the issue resolved. "I don't know that if we reopened it, I don't know we could ever get as much agreement as we had when we resolved the issue and put it on the Soldier's Monument," he said.

That said, South Carolina isn't the only place were there's a bit of Confederate flag controversy going on.

There's the Tennessee town of Kingsport, where a local high school is struggling to figure out what to do with the prominence of Confederate flags at school sporting events and the like. The problem: The school's teams are called the Rebels and their mascot is a Confederate soldier nicknamed Col. Reb.

According to Kingsport Times-News:

Sullivan County Schools spokeswoman Janie Barnes said she has seen e-mails for and against the flag, which actually is the battle flag of Virginia.

Harvey said he’s received lots of information recently from groups and individuals about the flag.

“Everybody’s got an opinion on it. I hate to see all this. It brings a negative focus to our school,” Harvey said. “As far as here on campus, there haven’t been any more flags than normal.”

And then there's Wapole, Mass. Yes, even up in the Bay State, there's a battle flag controversy. And like in Kingsport, it involves a local high school.

The Boston Globe reports:


Past clapboard houses with white fences, in a tree-filled yard next to the local high school is an unusual sight: a large sign painted to look like a Confederate flag.

In most other parts of the country the flag is a searingly divisive symbol of racial segregation. But here, it is also a display of pride for the Walpole High School Rebels.

For years, Confederate flags filled the bleachers at football games while fans sang “Dixie,’’ the Old South anthem. Yearbooks were emblazoned with the flag, and a celebrated coach went by the nickname General Lee.

Most of that ended in 1994, when school officials declared the flag an inappropriate symbol and eliminated it as an unofficial team emblem. But affection for the flag has lingered, and in the fall it appeared in the neighboring yard, resurrecting what some say is an uncomfortable era in the school’s history. Games at cozy Turco Memorial Field now come with a disclaimer, read to the crowd to preempt tension and distance the school from the controversial display.

“The Walpole School Committee apologizes to anyone who may be offended by the private citizen who chooses to display a Confederate flag in close proximity to the Walpole High School field,’’ the message goes. “It in no way reflects values that we support.’’

School officials rue the flag’s presence, but say the neighbor who hung the flag from a tree in his backyard, a Walpole High School student in the 1960s, has the right to display it on his property.

So take comfort, my fellow Sandlappers. We're not alone in our Confederate flag woes.

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