Last week I mentioned the controversy surrounding the candidacy of South Carolina lieutenant governor Glenn McConnell for the presidency of the College of Charleston. I suggested then that the controversy would be predictable, and that’s why I found it boring.
Like moths to a flame, the usual suspects are confirming my analysis. Today the Charleston Post and Courier posted an op-ed by Charleston City Councilman Henry E. Darby opposing McConnell’s candidacy because of his fondness for the Confederate flag. Conceding that McConnell has the right to do what he wants to do as a private citizen, Darby argues that he “could never support his presidency of an educational institution while he supports flying the flag on sovereign grounds. Regretfully, his name within the African-American community is synonymous with the continuation of the racial divide within South Carolina.”
To Darby, McConnell’s support of Confederate heritage is not simply a private matter. “As president of the College of Charleston, how would he respond to African-American students and faculty when they see Confederate symbols displayed in the president’s office? Would they consider him fair and concerned about their problems? How would they react if ultra-conservative students are emboldened to hang Confederate symbols on dormitory doors, windows and hallways? What if this confusion disrupts the campus? How could he intervene when his leadership provokes the disruptions?” He concludes that McConnell’s selection “would be divisive, and could engender cultural insensitivity towards African-American students and faculty and other minority groups. Liberal and moderate white students and faculty would also question his leadership. Finally, his qualifications do not measure up to those of the academicians who are far more qualified to lead all College of Charleston students and other stakeholders.”
Darby’s points are well-taken, even if they carry with them the aura of a self-fulfilling prophesy. Sometimes the best way to guarantee that something happens is to predict that it will. Moreover, he’s well-informed about American history, having written several books: he’s a professional educator who has taught American history.
South Carolina resident and Virginia Flagger supporter Carl Roden was quick to respond in the comments section.
It is not the display of the Southern Cross banner that perpetuates hatred, rather it is the continued clinging to the wrong-thinking viewpoint that the flag and its display is meant to be considered a sign of racial hatred.
Those who hate the flag based on stereotypes, who condemn it as a symbol of hatred, and label those who honor it for the right reasons as bigots are no different morally than those who take sick pride in misusing that noble banner as a tool of intimidation and fear.
They are part of the problem, not the solution.
Darby having baited the hook, Roden swallows it. To equate people who used the Confederate flag to defend segregation with those who deplore the flag as a symbol of that struggle, and to suggest therefore that black people who oppose the flag and what it stands for in their mind are bigots, isn’t going to get one very far.
In the end that flag and its display should offend nobody, nor should it be used as a tool to harm another. We fight to see the day that flag is recognized first and foremost as a purely Southern symbol of identity and heraldry.
I doubt that Mr. Roden’s letter assists in that process when it accuses blacks who are offended by the Confederate flag because of what it represents to them of being bigots. Indeed, what Roden wants is for everyone to accept his interpretation of the flag, when in fact it is a contested symbol. He has no business telling anyone what should or should not offend them.
The Opposition will have to accept that those of us who honor this flag for the right reasons will never go away and find a way to honorably coexist. If not then they are little more than useful idiots to those haters who seek to continue misusing a noble banner than many Southern boys died under for evil an deserve to be remembered that way.
I doubt that calling opponents of the Confederate flag “useful idiots” if they don’t bow to Mr. Roden’s view of things paves the way toward mutual understanding and compromise, let alone a thoughtful discussion of the issues involved.
I have no respect for those who refuse to grow beyond their narrow mindedness.
That may be a rather uncompromising view to many, but when one is fighting evil there is no middle ground. There is only right and wrong. Doing what is right or just what is easy. Its easy to condemn and surrender, but educating and taking the time to conquer prejudice, that is what is right and honorable.
Somehow I don’t think too many people are concerned about whether or not Mr. Roden respects them. You can understand why. One might note that Mr. Roden takes pride in his “uncompromising view,” while characterizing those whose take a similar view in opposition to his perspective to be exhibiting “narrow mindedness.” That’s why it’s “easy to condemn”; that’s what Mr. Roden’s doing himself (he’s fighting “evil,” after all), rather than doing “what is right and honorable.”
And this, of course, brings us back to my original point … that the debate over McConnell’s candidacy will not, in the end, be one over his qualifications for his position compared to those of the other candidates. It will be one about whether the College is willing to withstand the fallout that will come in the wake of a McConnell selection … or the selection of another candidate. It will be one about political favors and beliefs about Confederate heritage, and that’s how people will interpret the outcome. As I said a week ago:
Regardless of the decision, some people will attribute the result to McConnell’s interest in Confederate heritage. If he is not named, we’ll hear cries of anguish about people being “politically correct,” while if he’s named to the position, I expect to hear more about how that’s so typical of South Carolina, a state where stereotypes abound (do not forget that I lived in the state for three years). A victory for McConnell will also represent a setback for the NAACP, and I’m sure that will warm the hearts of some, while a defeat will lead to some people denouncing the organization with renewed fervor as a “hate group.”
Told you so.