south carolina

How to Restore the Glories of the Old South

I have an idea for people who value their region's heritage so much that they continue to wave what they think is the Confederate flag (even though it is actually the battle flag of Northern Virginia).

I suggest that they volunteer to be slaves. For life.

Fact: The 19th-century Southern way of life would have been impossible without enslaved people.

Fact: The one thing that could bring back that romantic bygone era would be if, once again, some 39 percent of the population were enslaved (that's the average percentage of enslaved people in the Confederate states). But this time let's recognize that no one values personal liberty as much as Southerners. And let's take their word that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with racism. Let's encourage true Confederate patriots, especially white folks who are not racists, to volunteer to work in the fields from sunrise to sunset. There will be no pay, of course, and no bothersome education; but food, lodging, and two sets of work clothes per year will be provided. And the South will rise again.

Rejecting White Dominion

book of genesis

Hand scanning the Book of Genesis. Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

I didn’t see the film Malcolm X in theaters. I waited to see it on video. Big mistake.

I watched it in my home, just off campus from University of Southern California, late at night when everyone else was sleeping. Another big mistake.

At the time I was living in a house with one other black person and a bunch of white and Asian friends. I was attending a mostly white school and a mostly white church and had attended a mostly white institute for urban transformation that was borne out of my church. Ironically, it was there that I was required to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. But I never read the whole thing, only sections.

So, I sat in the dark living room, lit only by the television screen, and watched Denzel Washington bring Malcolm X to life … by myself. And there, in the dark, Malcolm’s words about Jesus hit me to the core.

What People Meant For Evil …

The Rev. C.T. Vivian, who was central to the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 60s, said in an interview with me this week that the evil perpetrated at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., was “the best thing that could have happened.”

Not the deaths of the innocent people, he says, but the evil act that was carried out in a house of worship made way for critical action that might not otherwise have happened. “It came out even better than anybody would have thought,” he said, “because we not only got the flag down, but more than that, we got rid of the great Southern symbols. If we handle it right, we have a good chance of getting a whole lot done more than we thought. Black ministers have to go to white ministers and say this is the day that we've been waiting for, the day when the public is really ready to have the war of yesterday forgotten.”

Vivian may well be right, but the incident made this writer wonder, yet again, about the whereabouts of God in the presence of oppression. 

Only Black Deaths Matter

South Carolina lowers Confederate flag

A crowd celebrates after a South Carolina honor guard lowered the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds for the last time on July 10. Photo by John Moore / Getty Images

When the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina statehouse Friday morning, Gov. Nikki Haley spoke solemnly of the nine black churchgoers who were shot to death less than a month ago at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“We have all been struck by what was a tragedy we didn't think we would ever encounter,” Haley said of the horrifying massacre before she signed the bill with nine pens that will go to the families of the victims. “Nine amazing people that forever changed South Carolina's history."

Haley also referenced the “grace” shown by the nine families when they forgave the white gunman. She said their grace helped usher the state toward this long overdue decision. The assassinations at Emanuel AME, followed by forgiveness from the grieving families, were similarly cited by several South Carolina lawmakers as their reason for voting to remove the flag. Black Deaths Matter. That’s the painful and dangerous narrative being developed out of South Carolina. Only Black Deaths Matter. Our nation is capable of doing the right thing – such as taking down the Confederate flag in the year 2015, a flag that represents the racist, immoral, unconstitutional defense of slavery and Jim Crow – but only when black deaths happen and are met by a response deemed acceptable. Ever since this flag was raised in 1961 to send the message that South Carolina would not honor equal protection under the law, tens of thousands of small and large protests have not been enough to move the power brokers to take it down.

S.C. House Approves Removal of Confederate Flag

Image via Steven Frame/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

Today, at 4:00 p.m. EST, Governor Haley of South Carolina intends to sign a bill to take down the Confederate battle flag that is currently flying over the state capitol. The flag itself will be removed at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, and moved to a museum.

Calls for the removal of the Confederate flag, seen as a symbol of racism and oppression, have been buildingsince the murder of nine African-American men and women at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., last month. Dylann Roof, the accused murderer who is alledged to have been motivated by racial hate, has several pictures online posing with the flag as a symbol of white supremacy.

The flag itself increasingly been seen as a symbol of hate, even among traditionally conservative white southern Christians, with Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention going so far as to say that “the cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire.” 

This decision to take down the flag made its way through a marjoity vote in the South Carolina House earlythis morning. The vote comes nearly two weeks after Bree Newsome, a Christian activist, took down the flag herself in an act of civil disobedience on June 27. For her, this was an act “not only in defiance of those who enslaved my ancestors in the southern United States, but also in defiance of the oppression that continues against black people globally in 2015.”

Report: Fire at Black Church in S.C. Was Not Arson, Feds Say

REUTERS / Clarendon County Fire Department / RNS

Fire crews try to control a blaze at the Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Greeleyville, South Carolina in this June 30, 2015 handout photo. Photo via REUTERS / Clarendon County Fire Department / RNS

Although arson is blamed for at least three fires over the past two weeks at several predominantly black churches in Southern states, a blaze that destroyed Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina was not deliberately set, according to a federal source, the Associated Press reported July 1.

Churchgoers had feared the worst because the church in Greeleyville, S.C., was burned to the ground by the KKK in 1995. The latest fire broke out June 30 during a night of frequent storms and lightning strikes.

Horizons of Hope

sunsetincharleston

Sunset in Charleston, S.C. Image via /shutterstock.com

How could there have been people outside the South Carolina state house this weekend driving around in pick-up trucks with confederate flags attached to their beds, declaring "Heritage, not hate"? How could passerbys affirm these protests with shouts of "Long live the South"? How can people still deny that racism is deeply embedded in our culture? How can they not see that we must confront the harmful words and acts so that everyone may know they are beloved children of God and that their lives matter not just to God, but to their communities as well?

Charleston Is Testing the Soul of America

charleston

Congregants of the Greater Allen A.M.E. in New York gathered to march in solidarity with the victims and members of Emanuel AME in Charleston, S.C., a katz / Shutterstock.com

On Wednesday, June 17, a young believer in white supremacy invaded the sacred sanctuary of the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. There he murdered nine black Christians who were gathered together for their weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting. The killer had been welcomed by the African Methodist Episcopal church members to join them in prayer when he walked in, and he sat with them for more than an hour before he pulled out his gun and shot them dead at the prayer table. They were targeted and killed because they were black.

It is painfully true that in our time, in this year, in the United States, there is still no safe space for black people in America — even in their own churches. Racism is America’s original sin. It expresses itself explicitly and overtly in what we horribly saw last week in a black church, but racism continues on, implicitly and covertly, in American institutions and culture.

Packing Hate and Risking Love

Charleston vigil

Candlelight vigil in New York for the Charleston shooting victims on June 21. a katz / Shutterstock.com

The sickness in our society is driven by the way we mistrust and pull away from one another; how we decide to care only about ourselves and our immediate families; the way we choose to serve only those who are like us – same race, ethnic background, sexual orientation, religion, political views.

Everyone else gets minimized and pushed away. We arm ourselves to protect our shrinking little space. We live like moles, wary of predators.

In guns we trust. In fear we live.

Hearing Stories of the Past

Storytelling, Ivelin Radkov / Shutterstock.com

Storytelling, Ivelin Radkov / Shutterstock.com

I walked down the newly plowed row with my grandpa, feeling the warm, red clay on the soles of my bare feet and listening to his stories and words of advice. I held a tomato plant in my hands, the rich, black potting soil falling off of the small, vulnerable roots, as he knelt and dug a place for it in the garden. “Hey,” he’d often start, “here's something my daddy told me when I was little. ‘God gave you two ears and one mouth because He wants you to listen twice as much as you speak. If you do that, you'll learn something. If you don't, you won't.’”

The memory of walking with my grandpa in his garden came back to me after I read about The Faith and Politics Institute's Civil Rights Pilgrimage in which more than 250 people (including 30 members of Congress) took a three-day tour of civil rights landmarks from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham to Montgomery to Selma. The participants in the pilgrimage got to hear the stories of the struggle for justice from the people who were in those places 50 years ago. I especially remember grandpa’s stories about his childhood on the family dairy farm in Greenville, S.C. in the 1920s. I liked to hear stories about the black folks who came and worked with him and his family. I heard hard work in his voice and saw struggle in his face when he talked about those times.

Pages

Subscribe