Effort to start race war May do opposite

Published 8:45 am Friday, June 26, 2015

The senseless racist murder of nine members of an historic black church in Charleston, S.C., was a sad counterpoint to months of controversy of blacks being shot by white cops.

In most of the “officer-involved” shootings, it can be argued that there was at least something that legitimately drew law enforcement attention.

No such legitimacy with this one.

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The white shooter, a 21-year-old high school dropout, gunned down  the nine worshippers — including the church’s pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who also is a state senator — for the sin of being black.

They were doing everything right, and bothering no one. In fact, they had invited the white visitor into their prayer group, and warmly engaged him. He sat with them for about an hour before he stood up and started shooting.

The shooter told police he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News — but he decided he had to “go through with his mission.”

What led the young man to shoot black people? Some said the fact that the Confederate flag from the Civil War era still flies in the South Carolina capitol complex might be an indicator of institutional racism.

Defenders of  the Confederate flag often maintain it was states’ rights, not slavery, that caused the South to secede.

But the vice-president of the Confederacy, John H. Stephens, said in a speech in Georgia March 21, 1861, that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

So there has been a long-running battle over whether to continue displaying the Confederate flag on the capitol grounds.

Prior to 2000, the flag was on the flagpole on the capitol dome.

But efforts to remove what many saw as a symbol of South Carolina’s racist past from the capitol complex entirely resulted in an unholy legislative “compromise” in 2000.

The flag was removed from the pole on the capitol dome, all right, but not from the capitol grounds.

The 2000 state law says “the South Carolina Infantry Battle Flag of the Confederate States of America. . . .  must be flown on a flagpole located at a point on the south side of the Confederate Soldier Monument, centered on the monument, 10 feet from the base of the monument at a height of 30 feet.”

Looking right at the State House.

After the massacre, South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, ordered the American and South Carolina flags on the capitol flagpole flown at half-staff for nine days — one day for each victim.

But the Confederate flag stayed at full staff.

The “compromise” decree said the Confederate flag would fly at the top of the pole. It can’t be moved, or removed, except by a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.

In a reversal of her earlier position, the governor Monday called for removal of the flag from the grounds. She said that if the Assembly does not do it during the extra session this week to finalize the state’s budget, she would call legislators back in another extra session to deal with the flag issue.

South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, endorsed Haley’s call, which also is a change from his earlier position.

Haley, however, wants the shooter to have the maximum punishment possible.

“This is an absolute hate crime,” Haley said Friday (June 19) on NBC’s Today show. “We absolutely will want him to have the death penalty.”

Some pro-gun people cite examples like South Carolina’s as evidence Texas lawmakers were right to allow licensed people to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, and openly display pistols elsewhere.

Some pro-gun people said if the church’s parishioners had been armed, the story might have had a different ending. Maybe so, but it’s frightening to think about the bloodbath that could have occurred.

President Barack Obama, who held a White House press conference to lament the shootings, later addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco.

“Every country has hateful or mentally unstable people,” the President said. “What’s different is not every country is awash with easily accessible guns. So I refuse to act as if this is the new normal.”

Meanwhile, the South Carolina shooter trying to start a race war, with whites and blacks now hugging each other, may find he accomplished the exact opposite.

• • •

Texas Lucky? . . . .

The day after the shootings, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Texas is not required to honor requests for state license plates featuring — you guessed it — the Confederate flag.

And, a legislative effort during the recently adjourned Texas legislative session, to make it semi-legal to discriminate against Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender people (LGBT), died in the Texas House.

The legislative attempt was made as the Supreme Court may be about to declare unconstitutional Texas’ 2005 constitutional ban on same-sex marriages.

So if the high court throws out laws banning same-sex marriages, at least Texas won’t have additional laws to undo.

Gun regulation? That’s another matter. The first time open carry, or campus carry, goes haywire, look for the network news crews to be in Texas.

Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com or 512/458-2963.