I was born and raised in South Carolina.
From Beaufort to Summerville to Irmo to Mt. Pleasant to Clemson to Chapin, I spent the first 29 years of my life growing up there. I have aspirations to move back. My end goal has always been to wind up in South Carolina. It’s what I know. It’s my family’s home. It’s my home.
Today, my state let me down.
Outside of Texas, there are few states that can claim more state pride that South Carolina residents hold for their home. We’re a stubborn lot but South Carolinians live and breathe to defend their state. Some stances are noble and worthy. Others are not. But we’re not afraid to take a side, pour our heart into it, let you know how we feel, and do it with a smile on our face and sweet tea in our hand.
The Civil War was started on our soil because a group of people felt strongly enough to defend their stance on state rights. Good or bad, you cannot question South Carolina’s passion and pride.
Last week, an ignorant, racist, evil human being walked into a place of worship in our state and took nine lives out of pure spite and hatred. The murderer was white. The victims were black. Race shouldn’t matter in a situation this cruel. A life taken is a tragedy, no matter what color. Yet the murderer chose to make it his spark. The national media and outside parties with no vested interest in the state then fanned the fire.
Yet there were no riots. There were no violent demonstrations. There was no further division of race by #BlackLivesMatter movements. The voice heard across the state was simple: #PrayForCharleston. Thousands joined hands on the Cooper River Bridge Sunday to promote love, not hate.
No matter your race, religion, background, you were welcome into any church, any gathering, any prayer group to peacefully offer your condolences and show the rest of the world watching that Charleston and South Carolina didn’t do things your way. We band together and take care of our own in times of need whether you want to be a part of it or not.
Yet in less than a week, Mitt Romney, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, and countless other high exposure figures had changed the discussion from the remembrance and honor of the nine murdered people to the racially sensitive issue of the Confederate flag that has nothing to do with our tragedy. As the media took ran with the story, local figures began hopping on the bandwagon – Steve Spurrier. Ray Tanner. Lindsey Graham. Joe Riley. By Monday afternoon, Nikki Hailey – the governor of our state – held a press conference to suggest the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state house.
Should the flag be removed? There’s no easy answer. Personally, I’m against it as the current location was agreed upon in 2000 after removing it from atop the state house and it’s a symbol to me of the stubborn will of the South Carolina people. South Carolina holds a unique place in our country’s history and the flag is one part of that. I also understand that it’s a symbol of hate to many people after it’s been misused and bastardized by racist groups in recent history. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, as long as the discussion remains civil.
However, if the leaders of South Carolina wanted the flag down, they should have fought the fight on its own merit instead of facing an agenda of national perception. If this is truly a matter Graham, Scott, Riley, etc were passionate about, why is it just coming to light now? Have a backbone and stand on your own two feet to fight your own fights. But instead, they sheepishly backed into a corner after outside figures hijacked the story of nine of our own being brutally murdered to opportunistically push an unrelated, race-driven political agenda while emotions were high.
That’s not my South Carolina.