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What It's Like To Be Black And Live Under A White Neighbor's Confederate Flag

06/19/2015 06:58 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2015
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. -- Annie Caddell proudly flies the Confederate flag in her front yard here in the Charleston suburbs. She maintains a cache of spare flags on her front porch, replacing the one on her white flagpole every few months, after it gets tattered. A visitor to her home -- if the "no trespassing" sign doesn't turn him back -- is greeted near the door by a green, imitation street sign that reads "Confederate Circle."

Caddell said she'll die before her stars and bars stop blowing in the wind.

"Would you let your family history die like that? I don’t think so," Caddell, who's "pushing 56," said. "That’s tantamount to treason in my family. You just don’t do that."

Her neighbors know to take her at her word.

Caddell, who is white, lives in a historically black neighborhood called Brownsville, surrounded by African-American neighbors. She became a source of controversy after she moved here several years ago and made her full-staff statement. As the Charleston Post and Courier reported in a series of stories at the time, outraged residents mounted an emotional campaign aimed at forcing her to remove the flag. They marched. They petitioned. They enlisted the NAACP.

With the cooperation of Caddell's adjacent neighbors, they even erected wooden fences along both sides of her house, aimed at restricting the view. The flag only went higher.

The South may have lost the war, but Caddell won her flag battle. Despite the outcry, the town determined there was nothing it could do legally to compel her to remove it, and many African-American residents agreed it was her right to fly it.

Caddell, who describes herself as a Republican with tea party leanings, said her affection for the flag stems not just from her personal history, but from a mistrust of the federal government. Nearly five years later, she said everyone has long since moved on from the quarrel over her yard.

"It's all calmed down. Nobody's aggravated with me anymore," Caddell told The Huffington Post in an interview on her porch. "They understand it's not a racial thing with me, which I'm very thankful for, because it never was."

Things have certainly calmed down, but Caddell shouldn't be so sure that the aggravation has dissipated.

"Blown over? Nothing's blown over," said Rollins Edwards, 93, who lives two doors from Caddell and served as the first African-American member of the Dorchester County council. "We don't want nothing to remind us of slavery in the morning. To look over there at that flag, I don't like it.

"People come by here and stare in disbelief that that flag is flying in this neighborhood," Rollins, a World War II veteran, added.

The Confederate flag is famously divisive in South Carolina, with many white people calling it a proud badge of Southern heritage, and many African-Americans deeming it a shameful symbol of slavery and plunder. The flag used to fly atop the state capitol; after a heated battle more than a decade ago, it was removed from the capitol dome and made to fly at a Confederate memorial on statehouse grounds instead.

According to a poll commissioned last year by The State newspaper of South Carolina, feelings about the state's sanctioning of the flag unsurprisingly fall along racial lines, with a majority of whites saying it should remain, and a majority of blacks saying it should be removed. "Overall, 61 percent of South Carolinians said the flag should continue to fly where it is, while 33 percent say it should not," the paper's survey found.

Wednesday's racially motivated massacre of nine African-Americans at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston has reignited the debate over flying the rebel flag at the statehouse. Photos of Dylann Roof, the confessed shooter, show him wearing apartheid symbols and leaning against a car with an ornamental license plate bearing tribute to the Confederate states. (After the slaughter, the state flag and U.S. flag at the statehouse were lowered to half-staff in mourning; the Confederate flag, which cannot be moved without decree from the legislature, remained at full-staff.)

Some of the state's Republican politicians have appeared uncomfortable with the issue since the Emanuel murders. Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has previously said there is no need to remove the flag, though on Friday she said she hopes the ensuing debate will have "thoughtful words to be exchanged." Sen. Lindsey Graham, who's making a run for the GOP presidential nomination, said, "It works here, that's what the Statehouse agreed to do. You could probably visit other places in the country near some symbol that doesn't quite strike you right."

Asked about the controversy Friday, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, "The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and that’s still his position."

Caddell's neighbor Edwards marched at the statehouse years ago to have the flag removed. He bristles that the symbol of the Confederacy now seems to fly "more prominently" at the seat of state government than it used to. Although not a common sight in his own neighborhood, it isn't unusual to spot the rebel flag rumbling past on a pickup truck in Edwards' area. There's even a retail shop nearby that specializes in Confederate signage: Dixie Outfitters, which has the tagline "Southern Heritage."

A man and woman working at Dixie Outfitters on Friday politely declined to discuss the statehouse debate.

"We don't do interviews," the man said. "It never works out."

But, referencing the statehouse flag, the woman couldn't help but add, "It ain't coming down."

On that matter, many African-Americans in Brownsville seem to agree, saying the politics are not on their side.

"It's America, man. I don't have no say-so," said Brandon Haynes. "Regular everyday people, you can't stop that."

Although they wince at the flag in Caddell's front yard, many of her neighbors agree that it should be within her rights to fly any flag she wants on her own property. What they struggle to understand is the assertion that the flag is a symbol of proud heritage, given the legacy of slavery.

"It doesn't represent me," said Fred Ellington, 67, who lives three doors from Caddell and is African-American. "What it represents is what happened to our people back in the day. If they want to represent murder, rape, slavery, I don't let that bother me. They're gonna do what they wanna do anyway. It's been going on ever since the beginning of this country, hatred. I don't have to mess with that lady. I haven't never said nothing since she moved here."

"You can call it heritage all you want it. It's a symbol of hate," said Edwards' wife, Juanita.

Like everyone else HuffPost spoke to on the matter, Caddell herself didn't believe the flag at the statehouse would be coming down anytime soon. She said she felt it never should have been moved from the dome in the first place.

"We should never trade our history for anything," she said. "If you can't be proud of where you come from, you're in a sad state of affairs."

As for her own flag, "People just want something to talk about, I guess," she said.

06/19/2015 10:10 PM EDT

Murdoch Owned New York Post Calls Removal Of Confederate Flag

The New York Post's editorial board joined the chorus opposing South Carolina continuing to fly the Confederate flag at the State Capitol after the shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, writing, "Time to take it down, folks."

The Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the current chief executive of 21st Century Fox and its property, the conservative Fox News.

More from the Post:

Yes, some white Southerners point to it as a symbol of regional pride. But it represented a bloody rebellion against the United States in defense of slavery.

...

The Confederate flag isn’t quite as clear-cut; many no doubt honestly display it to honor ancestors or just the "rebel spirit." But at core it remains the emblem of those who fought to defend secession and slavery.

That flag has no place on any government institution.

06/19/2015 9:13 PM EDT

Reverend Makes Fervent Call To Take Down Confederate Flag

During a Friday night vigil for the victims in the shooting at a Charleston church, Rev. Nelson Rivers III of Charity Missionary Baptist Church offered support to the families of those killed, and made an impassioned call for the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina State Capitol.

Reverend Calls For Confederate Flag To Come Down

During a Friday vigil for the victims of the Charleston church shooting, Rev. Nelson Rivers III passionately called for South Carolina to take the Confederate flag down from the state Capitol.See what else was said at the vigil http://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/charleston-shooter-failed-miserably-to-divide-city-mayor-say?bffbnews&utm_term=4ldqpho#4ldqpho

Posted by BuzzFeed News on Friday, June 19, 2015

(h/t BuzzFeed News)

06/19/2015 8:57 PM EDT

Lawmakers Moving Away Confederate Flag

On Friday night, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) tweeted, "We will have many conversations over the coming days and weeks, and the placement of the Confederate flag will certainly be one of those topics."

Also, South Carolina State Rep. Norman Brannon (R) told MSNBC that he would sponsor a bill that would "take down" the Confederate flag from state government buildings.

06/19/2015 7:54 PM EDT

Vigil Held For Charleston Church Victims

NBA Star Dwight Howard in attendance.

Pray for Charleston. Pray for our nation. Pray for peace. #breatheagain.

A photo posted by Dwight Howard (@dwighthoward) on

06/19/2015 7:25 PM EDT

Martin O'Malley Is 'Pissed,' Calls For Assault Weapons Ban

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley didn't mince words in the wake of the massacre of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston.

"I'm pissed," the former Maryland governor said in a Friday email to supporters, in which he derided Congress for its inability to pass tighter gun control measures.

“I’m pissed that after an unthinkable tragedy like the one in South Carolina yesterday, instead of jumping to act, we sit back and wait for the appropriate moment to say what we’re all thinking: that this is not the America we want to be living in,” O'Malley wrote.

Read more here. -- Kim Bellware

06/19/2015 7:12 PM EDT

What It's Like To Be Black And Live Under A White Neighbor's Confederate Flag HuffPost's Dave

HuffPost's Dave Jamieson reports from Summerville, South Carolina, just outside Charleston: Annie Caddell proudly flies the Confederate flag in her front yard here in the Charleston suburbs. She maintains a cache of spare flags on her front porch, replacing the one on her white flagpole every few months, after it gets tattered. A visitor to her home -- if the "no trespassing" sign doesn't turn him back -- is greeted near the door by a green, imitation street sign that reads "Confederate Circle."

Caddell said she'll die before her stars and bars stop blowing in the wind.

"Would you let your family history die like that? I don’t think so," Caddell, who's "pushing 56," said. "That’s tantamount to treason in my family. You just don’t do that."

Her neighbors know to take her at her word. Read more here.

06/19/2015 7:06 PM EDT

Louisiana Gov. Orders Flags To Half-Staff

In a statement, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, "Out of respect for those murdered in Charleston, I issued an Executive Order to fly flags over state buildings at half-staff."

06/19/2015 5:39 PM EDT

Roof Family: Shock, Grief Over Shooting

The family of suspected Charlotte church shooter Dylann Roof issued a statement on Friday night, expressing shock over the killings, and offering sympathies and condolences to families of victims.

The full statement:

Words cannot express our shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night,” the statement continues.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victim's families offering God's forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.

06/19/2015 4:08 PM EDT

Rick Santorum: Charleston Shooting 'Clearly' Motivated By Race

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) didn't equivocate Friday when asked about the nature of an attack by a white gunman on a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

"It was clearly racially motivated. Clearly," Santorum told The Huffington Post at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, D.C.

The presidential candidate took issue with news reports that said he blamed the attack on a broader assault against religious liberty. He explained that he didn't know all the facts when he was first asked about the shooting on Thursday morning.

Read the full story here.

-- Igor Bobic

06/19/2015 4:07 PM EDT

Justice Department To Expedite $29 Million Grant Funding To South Carolina For Victim Assistance

The Department of Justice will expedite a $29 million formula victim assistant grant funding to South Carolina, according to DOJ spokesman Kevin Lewis. Some of the grant funding can be used to help victims of the recent tragedy at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

--Ryan Reilly

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