Wednesday, Sep. 23, 2009

ACC should be ashamed to back NAACP boycott

By GLENN F. McCONNELL – Guest Columnist

The Atlantic Coast Conference recently announced a decision to move its 2011-13 baseball championships from Myrtle Beach to North Carolina. The reason? It says the Confederate flag flying on South Carolina’s State House grounds violates its commitment to "diversity, equality and human rights."

The truth is the ACC folded to pressure from the NAACP, whose economic boycott of South Carolina has thus far been ignored by all fair-minded people. This decision by the ACC is an insult to South Carolinians of all races, creeds and genders. It is unwise, unfair and clearly based on intolerance and ignorance.

Officials at the ACC must not be aware that North Carolina flies a Confederate flag on its dome to commemorate historically significant dates. Other Southern states do even more to celebrate Southern heritage. Mississippi actually has the Confederate battle flag designed into its state flag. Georgia has the national flag of the Confederacy in its state flag. And Alabama flies Confederate flags (including the battle flag) at its State House alongside a Confederate Memorial that is much larger and more prominent than South Carolina’s display.

And yet the NAACP has shamelessly chosen to single out South Carolina for an economic boycott over the issue of the Confederate flag, regardless of the inconsistency and the irrationality of its position. Why? Let me explain.

For decades, dating back to the middle of the last century, the Confederate battle flag flew atop the dome at the S.C. State House as well as from the podiums of the legislative chambers and in the foyer of the State House. And for years, a heated debate waged over what the Confederate battle flag symbolized.

Supporters of the flag argued that it was a positive symbol of heritage, honoring the sacrifice of those who fought and died in the War Between the States. Others insisted the Confederate flag was a negative symbol of slavery used by hate groups to support racism and should not be flown in a position of sovereignty on top of the State House.

After considerable debate and dialogue, there was a gradual realization by reasonable folks on both sides that the matter should be resolved on the basis of mutual respect. At long last, a compromise was achieved that united people of goodwill.

Ultimately, the compromise had several parts. The Confederate battle flag was removed from the State House dome, the legislative chambers and the State House foyer and flown, instead, beside the Confederate Soldier Monument, where its military meaning was made clear. At the same time, Confederate and civil rights monuments and street names were protected from change without a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly.

This almost poetic compromise satisfied all but the fringe elements on both sides, which includes the NAACP. In an effort to continue stirring the flames of controversy, the NAACP threatened to enforce an economic boycott against South Carolina unless the Confederate flag was banned altogether from the State House grounds.

Fortunately, leaders of both races and from both political parties were not intimidated by the NAACP’s demands. They did not abandon their determination to resolve the issue with a spirit of reconciliation and to move forward in a way that celebrates our state’s diverse heritage. The compromise was passed by the General Assembly and became law.

Previously, the State House grounds, which is as an outdoor museum, had been further broadened to speak to all of our history when South Carolina erected an African-American monument, honoring those who struggled for decades in the cause of civil rights. Today, South Carolina’s State House grounds offer visitors a grand celebration of the valor of her people, spanning the American Revolution, the War Between the States and the Civil Rights Movement, completing the circle of history.

In the years that followed, no one was surprised to see the NAACP continue to push its economic boycott. The fringes of an issue seldom compromise. They thrive on controversy. Their continued existence is ensured by division. Fortunately, until now, they have been largely ignored. That’s why the decision by the ACC to "honor" the NAACP’s economic boycott of South Carolina is so unfair and unwise.

Far from upholding "diversity and equality," siding with the NAACP on this issue is a victory for intolerance. It also brings economic harm to honorable, hardworking, decent people of all races in the false name of political correctness.

The good people of South Carolina deserve better treatment. And the officials of the ACC, an athletic league that should be in the business of promoting good sportsmanship, would do well to ask itself a fundamental question: Is its decision an example of fair play?

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