The state of South Carolina has come one step closer to removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol. By a vote of 37-3 in the state Senate, a bill to remove the flag from the state house grounds passed a second reading. The bill faces a third reading on July 7 before the legislation is taken up by the state House of Representatives.
The decision to take up the issue came after State Senator Clementa Pinckney and eight others were gunned down on June 17 by Dylann Roof, an alleged white supremacist, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Roof, a neo-Confederate sympathizer who was by inspired by the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist hate group, had Confederate license plates. Pinckney was the leader of the historic church, which is the oldest Black church in the Southern U.S. and was co-founded by Denmark Vesey, architect of an 1822 slave rebellion which led to whites burning the church down to the ground. State Senator Vincent Sheheen, a friend of the fallen Black lawmaker who introduced the bill, said removing the flag “is one small step that reduces the culture of division,” according to The Guardian.
The three legislators who voted against the bill, all Republicans, include Senators Lee Bright, Danny Verdin and Senate Republican leader Harvey Peeler. Peeler reportedly opposed the bill because his ancestors owned slaves, and removing the flag cannot change that history.
The vote came as thousands of South Carolinians received a pro-Confederate robocall over the July 4th weekend. According to Raw Story, the call was paid for by the group Conservative Response Team which, according to their Facebook page, made 40,000 robocalls. The recording urged callers to tell their legislators to “leave our flag alone and not stand with leftist fanatics who want to destroy the South we love.”
“Don’t think the PC haters will stop if Governor Haley gets her way, and the Confederate memorial is taken down and hidden away in a museum. Just like ISIS, Obama’s haters want our monuments down, graves dug up and school, roads, towns and counties renamed. They’ve even taken ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ off TV,” the recording said. “What’s next? This attack on our values is sick and un-American and it has to stop right here and right now in South Carolina.”
Ultimately, removal of the flag requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature.
In Alabama, Gov. Robert Bentley recently removed four Confederate flags from the state capitol. “It’s so important that we present an image in Alabama that things are different today than they were in 1963,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I understand how people feel about the flag,” he added. “But I also know, unfortunately, some hate organizations have co-opted that battle flag, and so by doing that, it is a symbol of hate and bigotry to a lot of people in our state, both black and white.” The city of Mobile could decide to remove the Confederate emblem from its official seal.
Mississippi, one of seven state flags with Confederate symbolism, is the only state flag still incorporating the Confederate emblem.
Many Southern states began flying the Confederate battle flag and incorporating the confederate emblem into their state flags during the 1950s and 1960s as an act of resistance to the civil rights movement, following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision prohibiting segregation in public schools. South Carolina began flying the flag in 1962.
A number of businesses such as Amazon, eBay, Sears and Walmart have banned the sale of the flag, and TV Land recently stopped airing the program “Dukes of Hazzard,” which features General Lee, a 1969 Dodge Charger featuring a Confederate flag on its roof.
Meanwhile, although the Confederate flag–a symbol of slavery, white supremacy and the oppression of Black people—seems to be making its gradual exit from official life in the South, white children continue to be indoctrinated in the hate the flag represents.
As reported in Raw Story and Ring of Fire radio, the Ku Klux Klan will hold its Soldiers of the Cross Training Institute (SOTC), a summer camp for students age 16 and up, from July 20-25 near Harrison, Arkansas. “We are standing as a witness to the greatest betrayal of the ages. A betrayal of not only our people but a betrayal of civilization itself. Yet there are few who have the courage to stand before the abyss and point the way to our racial redemption,” says their website. “Even though the hour is late and the night is deep upon us, we are sounding forth this final call to men and women – devout and brave – to rally to the flag and join this New Crusade for race, faith and homeland.” The website also says the camp is “organized and conducted on a Christian foundation.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the SOTC is the brain child of white supremacist Tomas Robb of the Knights Party, an offspring of David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The camp is a recruitment tool for young people.
Further, as reported in Vocativ, the Sam Davis Youth Camp is an annual summer camp for teens operated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a hate group with ties to the KKK. “Our kids aren’t getting taught this stuff in the schools,” said Phil Walters, a camp organizer. “Great American heroes like Jefferson Davis and General Robert Lee…our kids are not gonna be told that these people are evil, hate-mongering slaveholders and not have us do something to correct it.”
The camp positions itself as a place where young people will learn the truth about the South, as opposed to what it calls “the liberal, politically correct view of history.” The camp website says, “For one week, our Southern young men and ladies…will gather to hear the truths about the War for Southern Independence.” It adds, “This camp (named for the great young Confederate Sam Davis) will combine fun and recreation with thoughtful instruction in Southern history, the War Between the States, the theology of the South during the War, lessons on Southern heroes, examples of great men of the Faith, and for the first year, special programs and sessions for our Southern ladies!”
Hundreds of teens attend Confederate camps in several states such as South Carolina, Virginia and Texas.
The removal of the Confederate flag is a positive development. However, the evidence shows that the legacy of the Confederacy continues in the hearts and minds of young white Southerners.