After 9 Black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston have been murdered by a white supremacist gunman who had beforehand been photographed with Confederate iconography in 2015, South Carolina swiftly eliminated the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds. When then-Gov. Nikki Haley defined the choice, she acknowledged that the flag ought to by no means have been raised there and described her realization that “people were driving by and felt hurt and pain.”
Today, South Carolina is taking one other step in the correct route by recognizing the damage and ache that the Confederate Memorial State Holiday causes. In a exceptional unanimous vote by the South Carolina Senate, 29 Republicans and 16 Democrats elected to create a floating vacation that might enable state employees to decide on when to take time without work.
It is noteworthy that the invoice’s unique intent was to make the Juneteenth federal vacation — which honors the day that previously enslaved folks in Texas discovered they have been free — a state vacation. Instead, lawmakers determined to remove Confederate Memorial Day completely. The vote is now headed to the S.C. House of Representatives, the place elected officers have the facility to cease commemorating the May 10 dying of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson as soon as and for all.
If handed, Confederate Memorial Day would solely be the second memorial faraway from the state for the reason that Charleston church bloodbath — leaving 224 Confederate symbols remaining. Even after the Unite the Right Rally [in Virginia] in 2017 resulted within the dying of anti-racist protestor Heather Heyer, South Carolina didn’t take away any memorials. George Floyd’s 2020 homicide sparked the relocation, elimination and renaming of 157 memorials — however none of them have been in South Carolina. That similar yr, 4 colleges in Lee County tried to alter their identify and participate in a nationwide reckoning over the legacy of slavery. Two years later, adjustments haven’t but been made and renames are nonetheless pending.
Clearly, there may be nonetheless work to be carried out. First, South Carolina should foyer to repeal the outdated and draconian preservation regulation. It is inconceivable for communities to problem the racist memorials of their presence when there are legal guidelines on the books defending them. Contact your state consultant and inform them that you really want communities to have the facility to create commemorative landscapes in ways in which mirror their values.
Second, use the Whose Heritage? map and database to analysis whether or not there’s a Confederate memorial in your group. Contact us if there’s a Confederate memorial that’s lacking from our knowledge.
Third, consult with SPLC’s Community Action Guide. The textual content not solely gives sources and techniques for figuring out and eradicating Confederate symbols, it additionally affords recommendation on the social justice motion and coalition constructing.
Finally, train the historical past of the Civil War truthfully and precisely. Learning for Justice’s Teaching Hard History framework gives sources for educators seeking to inform college students in regards to the legacy of slavery within the United States.
At the SPLC we all know that eradicating Confederate Memorial Day can’t and won’t carry again Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton and Myra Thompson. Nor can it erase the legacy of slavery.
However, South Carolina can’t and won’t reside as much as its acknowledged democratic beliefs till all Confederate memorials are eliminated. In the phrases of [South Carolina] poet Nikky Finney, “Our one and only Civil War is done. /Let us tilt, rotate, strut on. If we,/The living, do not give our future/The same honor as the sacred dead,/Of then and now – we lose everything.”
By passing this regulation, South Carolina will honor its future and the lives misplaced within the Charleston church bloodbath, trying ahead to a time when the state’s monuments and memorials actually mirror the state’s values.
Kimberly Probolus is a senior analysis analyst with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, the place she researches the historical past of Confederate monuments and contributes to the “Whose Heritage?” report on public symbols of the Confederacy.
This commentary was first printed in our sister publication, Statehouse Report.
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