NAACP intensifies South Carolina flag boycott
By Brian E. Muhammad
Updated Oct 22, 2008
COLUMBIA, S.C. (FinalCall.com) – The Confederate battle flag means different things to different people. To critics it’s a symbol of an offensive and painful past. To supporters it’s a symbol of pride and heritage. But to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, the symbol is a non-issue.
Meanwhile the NAACP announced plans Sept. 22 to increase boycott efforts against the state of South Carolina—until the flag comes down.
The increased effort came as statistics released by state economists showed South Carolina posting a loss of 50,000 jobs since April and an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent, which is a 15-year high, according to a Sept. 27 report in The State newspaper.
The governor’s spokesman would not comment on the possible impact an increased boycott would have on state revenue in light of these figures, deferring such questions to the NAACP.
"It’s very expensive to be evil," said Dr. Lonnie Randolph, state president of the South Carolina NAACP, in an exclusive interview with The Final Call. Dr. Randolph said support is strong for the boycott, noting more than 300 family reunions a year now refuse to come to South Carolina. Faith-based and corporate groups have held conferences elsewhere. The famed Harlem Globetrotters basketball team no longer comes to the state and the National Collegiate Athletic Association has declined South Carolina as a venue for its tournaments. The NCAA decision has cost the state $15-$25 million per season, according to the NAACP state president.
"Anytime there is a downturn in the economy the boycott is more of a factor," observed Dr. Randolph. The influx of tourism and investment dollars won’t be there, he added.
The Confederate battle flag was at the center of a national controversy in the 1990s when it flew over the dome of South Carolina’s state capitol building. After several years of protests by the Black community and counter protests by Confederate enthusiasts, a 2000 legislative decision was rendered to remove the flag from the dome and display it elsewhere on the grounds of the state capitol. However, the choice was frowned upon because the new location was still on state property, and highly visible from one of the busiest streets in downtown Columbia.
Supporters of the flag want it to remain at the capitol building, and view the emblem as part of their history and heritage honoring 19th century soldiers of the Confederacy who fought for secession of southern states from the United States. It was December 20, 1860 when South Carolina became the first state to issue a declaration of independence from the Union, which caused a civil war fundamentally over the question of slavery.
Dr. Randolph said "several countries had slavery as part of their economic system, yet America was the only nation who went to war to keep their slaves."
"It’s negative, everybody wants to be patriotic but the Confederate flag is a symbol of treason and it is time for it to come down," said South Carolina resident Muhammad Salaam. The flag has been used a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan and other White hate groups.
The South Carolina NAACP state chapter will collaborate with the North Carolina state chapter to place pressure on both states to support the boycott. "This is not a South Carolina issue, this is a national issue," said Dr. Randolph at an earlier press conference announcing renewed efforts to remove the flag.
On the other hand, there is doubt if time and energy should be placed on the flag in the face of existing financial hardship and negative social conditions afflicting the Black community. Some argue to remove the flag does not eliminate disparities found in education, jobs, and adequate housing among Blacks and minorities in South Carolina.
"The flag is a symptom of something much deeper, if the Black community wants to deal with an issue like this, it’s better we deal with the substance of the issue. This is the time we must unite, do for ourselves and live our self-interest," said Victor Bolton, a pharmaceutical technician. "Just as the flag is a non-issue to Gov. Sanford, we’re (Black people) a non-issue to the U.S. government as proven by Hurricane Katrina."
"What is a priority? Our pain is not the same as their pain," said Dr. Randolph, who agreed that the pain and disrespect of Black people was "never a priority to America or South Carolina."