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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VIEW FROM AMERICA: Will Confederate Flag Ever Wave Good-Bye?




All right, South Carolina. It's time to take the rebel flag down.


If 50,000 people are angry enough about its flapping over the dome of the statehouse to turn out for a mass protest last week, then clearly the flag must go.


For a while there, though, I wasn't so sure. I remember how the sight of a Confederate flag sent chills through me when I was growing up in Alabama. My family would be driving along the street or pulling into the parking lot at Sears Roebuck when I'd glimpse a car with Confederate license plates.


Then I knew we were in the presence of some ignorant white Southerners who had a special hostility toward blacks. We braced ourselves for an ugly name or a crude remark. And, even if it didn't come, there were the hostile looks and our feeling of unease.


I've been away from the South for a while and haven't seen many Confederate flags. But I became immersed in American Civil War history. I find it fascinating, with all the tragedy and pathos of a great epic. Frankly, I've always been more impressed by the South's exploits than by the North's. The South had the best generals, the superior strategy, the most fearless soldiers. ."


The Southerners were fighting on their own land, which made their struggle more important than the idea of preserving some mythical union. And, yes, while the Civil War was fought, among other things, to preserve slavery, the typical rebel soldier had no slaves, but was just a poor guy from a small family farm.


Considering the heavy toll the war took on the South, to write it off as if it never happened would suggest that the sacrifice was for nothing.


But just because you have a heritage doesn't necessarily mean it was a good one. And it's not as if the rebel flag had been flying atop the South Carolina statehouse since the war. It wasn't put there until 1962, to mark the Civil War centennial.


The crowd outside the statehouse convinced me that the flag must come down.


Blacks see the flag as an affront, a reminder of the misery of their ancestors, while the anti-flag whites see it as a symbol that makes South Carolina look bad to the rest of the nation. The South Carolina Legislature is divided over whether to remove the flag. And, ironically, it probably won't be moral rectitude that gets the flag removed.


An economic boycott of the state called by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has had limited impact so far. But, with an NCAA basketball conference tournament scheduled for 2002 in Greenville, the sports-happy South Carolinians are not going to sacrifice basketball for a rebel flag.


Sheryl McCarthy is a columnist for Newsday, where this originally appeared.