Here is thoughtful piece by my old friend and colleague Warren Bolton of The State. Like me, he covered and remembers the long battle over the Confederate flag and the compromise that brought it down from the Statehouse dome on July 1, 2000. And like me, he wonders if South Carolina has made the gains that seemed so possible on that bright and hopeful day. The flag is down, but South Carolina still has two wheels in the ditch and, as Jon Stewart says, we are now America’s whoopee cushion.
Take a look at what Warren has to say.
AS THE S.C. House debated a flag compromise in 2000, I stood in the lobby talking with a couple of business leaders.
Paula Harper Bethea, then chair of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, stressed that it was essential that lawmakers approve a compromise to protect the state’s business climate and its image. Once that happened, she pledged, the business community would work to address inequities and challenges South Carolina faced, some of which had worked their way into the flag debate.
Later I talked with Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, who was understandably pleased with the way the Senate handled the compromise. The staunch flag supporter said senators, black and white, came together in a special way. He said he expected them to deal with issues peculiar to specific communities with sensitivity in the future. Black senators already had been helpful in explaining to him the need for certain policies or programs aimed at improving education in some communities, he said. “To me, there are greater bonds of respect that have been built up in here.”
So, have those bonds of respect translated into meaningful change in the qualify of life of this state’s people over the past decade? Has the business community upheld its end of the bargain? Or was the flag compromise merely a product of expedience?
The short answer is it’s a mixed bag. The long is that we’ve got a ways to go.