Friday’s first editorial lays out once again our support for taking the Confederate flag off Statehouse grounds:
Gov. Nikki Haley’s growing national profile may be accompanied by a growing inclination to call her out on the national stage. In Los Angeles this week for the group’s annual convention, NAACP president Benjamin Jealous challenged Haley to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds, where it has flown since a 2000 compromise.
We’ve supported efforts in the past to achieve this goal, and we’re still behind such efforts. The impact of the boycott initiated by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is impossible to measure, and it has arguably had little effect on most tourism in the state. But it has without a doubt waved off at least some high profile athletic events, and any barrier to bringing more people and income to the state is hard to justify. Put simply, the flag is bad for business.
The Confederate soldiers whose memorial the flag flies over will be no less celebrated if the flag were moved to a museum. The flag also will no doubt continue to fly across the state and be memorialized on bumper stickers, T-shirts and tattoos, but a symbol that offends many should be removed from the seat of our state government. Much of Myrtle Beach agrees. A Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce survey last year found 65 percent of members want the flag moved off the Statehouse grounds.
And South Carolina is not alone in this debate. A similar dispute is now taking place in West Virginia, where a statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson at the state’s Capitol is being debated. Intriguingly, one of the main voices behind that movement had his views formed on the Grand Strand. Howard Swint, who has been outspoken that the statue be removed, told his hometown newspaper this week that his views were molded back in the early 1970s, when Swint was 13. He had a black friend who was denied service at a restaurant in Myrtle Beach. The experience stuck with him over the years.
“From that point forward I saw things differently,” he said.
For the past few years, most of the leaders in Columbia have pointed to the 2000 compromise, patted our heads and assured us that the issue is settled. But as the news this week shows, perhaps it’s not so settled as some might wish.