It's shocking (and not entirely surprising) that as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, voting rights of African-Americans are being taken away by rightwing state governments, using the very techniques that the 1965 Act prohibited -- techniques that were legalized after the fact by a partisan Supreme Court. In the South of the 1980s and 1990s, there were bi-racial voting coalitions that elected economically centrist and racially moderate governors and senators to statewide office, even in the Deep South. Bill Clinton of Arkansas was one such governor. Albert Gore, Jr., of Tennessee, was one such senator. Those days are just about gone. The Republican Party in the Deep South is a mostly white party and the Democrats mostly a black party. The GOP has successfully played the race card, and biracial governing coalitions are getting scarce.
Learning history awakens, enlightens and forces introspection. But when historical items become icons, the facts take a back seat to dogma. South Carolina finally has taken down the symbol that when I was young I did not fully understand. It's now time for the rest of us to understand the hate such a symbol represents.
The question answered by the South Carolina House of Representatives today is whether their state government, as a political and democratic institution representing constituents of all races, should maintain on its capitol grounds the very flag it placed there 50 years ago to protest the civil rights movement.
As South Carolina's Capitol grounds and other jurisdictions decide the fate of their most prominent emblems of past oppression and contemporary reaction, Stone Mountain guarantees that at least one Confederate icon will loom over the South's largest city for as long into the future as mankind can foresee.
If the Jeff Davis Highway is renamed, I certainly will not shed a tear, but the symbolism of such a renaming is meaningless unless it is followed by concrete action tackling today's racial disparities. History should not be allowed to weigh us down and distract us from the issues and problems of our time.