Time to end Confederate flag discussion


If the South Carolina General Assembly doesn't get the Confederate battle flag off the Statehouse grounds after what happened in Charleston this week, then we may as well replace the Palmetto Tree on the proper state flag - the beautiful blue one - with a swastika.

I'm sick of the cockeyed excuses from state politicians about why the Confederate flag issue is so complicated.

Nine innocent black people are murdered by a 21-year-old white man consumed with racist hatred. He embraces the symbols that divide people, including the Confederate flag, and declares his murderous intentions in racist manifestos and photos posted online.

Could it be any clearer what that flag now represents to most people? How complicated is that?

Some members of the families of the victims - my fellow South Carolinians - did a remarkable thing at the first court hearing on Friday: They forgave him. How is that possible?

It's because many black Americans - particularly here in the American South - have in previous generations undergone so much oppression, injustice and terrorism that they have had to learn to forgive the worst in other humans just to survive and move on. It's a coping mechanism.

My family has been here in the American South since the 1700s, and my great-great-grandfather was a Confederate soldier. He was a printer. He printed currency. After the South lost the war and the United States emerged intact - thank God - he became a newspaperman.

The family business he started continues today, and now six generations of my American family have been dedicated to supporting the communities we serve and protecting the First Amendment of the United States of America through publishing and communication. We have a track record, so here's some free speech for those who want to keep the Confederate battle flag on the Statehouse grounds as some twisted symbol of Southern heritage: You're misguided and morally blind. Snap out of it.

The Southern pride, heritage and bravery I recognize and appreciate - and what I pray my children and their children will carry forward - is that of U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and my own father.

It's a legacy of teaching, serving the public good and demonstrating through action the importance of trying to do the right thing by all people. It's a legacy of moving South Carolina forward in spite of the old hatreds that fester like a genetic cancer in so many.

I've seen these people. I've known them all my life. I don't like them, but I do feel sorry for them and have tried to forgive them for one very important reason: They're spiritually sick, and they know not what they do.

The Southern pride, heritage and bravery I want to be associated with is that of the families of the victims who on Friday forgave the monster who murdered their loved ones in cold blood. The only grace and love that could have enabled such an action comes from a faith in God and humanity so deep that we should all pray for some small part of it in our own spirit. I'm praying for just a piece of that amazing grace for all South Carolinians this week as the victims are buried.

This is South Carolina's time to show the world our true, united colors as a people. Start with the flag. Do the right thing.

Graham Osteen is Editor-At-Large of The Item. He can be reached at graham@theitem.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamOsteen, or visit www.grahamosteen.com.