Andrew Dys

SC legislators need guts to take Confederate Flag down from Citadel chapel

Politicians are weak. Some, close to brainless.

Only someone without guts, or a brain, would not want to take down the Confederate flag from the Citadel’s chapel in Charleston.

That flag of hate and racism, it flies in a church.

Take it down.

Somehow, a year after a white racist – who wanted to start a race war under the colors of that flag – killed nine black people in another church in the same city, the flag still flies in the chapel at a public college.

South Carolina’s politicians, the joke of America for so long because the state defiantly flew the rebel flag, have a chance to finally put the last celebrated Confederate flag to rest. They have not done so.

The Citadel is a public college, supported by all – including blacks.

It is a college where blacks were barred until 1966.

A college where the Confederate flag did not fly until blacks wanted equality in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So the Citadel and political leaders in those days – who wanted neither integration, nor equality, nor black cadets – put the flag in a church, and incredibly it still flies.

South Carolina, under public and political pressure and the world’s eyes in June and July 2015, finally removed the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. It took an act of the S.C. Legislature, which is made up of politicians. Nikki Haley, the governor, pushed for the flag to come down. She is a politician but she finally realized that hate had to die and had the courage to say so.

She wants the Citadel flag to go, too.

The Citadel’s Board of Visitors wants the flag down.

That flag flies in the chapel with state and territorial flags. It flies next to the Virgin Islands flag. I lived there for so many years; my wife and her family are from there. It is a place where 95 percent of the American citizens are black, and there are no Americans anywhere who are more patriotic. No racist ever had the guts to fly a Confederate flag there, in that America.

Yet at the Citadel chapel, the Confederate flag, declaring hatred for blacks, flies next to the Virgin Islands flag that celebrates the equality and freedom of blacks.

Seemingly anyone with a beating heart and a single brain wave that would register on a machine should want the Confederate flag down forever.

Except it takes politicians, who are known for having little heart and littler brains.

Politicians are not courageous by nature. Most are soft and flabby, and they do everything except the right thing until they have to be shamed into it, like taking the flag down from the Statehouse. It took nine murders to take down that flag of death.

To take the flag down from the Citadel would require the same legislature to act.

Tom Hall, who was born in Chester and whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy after signing the secession documents, a Citadel class of 1989 alum – and there is no prouder Citadel man in America – wants that Confederate flag out of the Citadel chapel.

“Down,” Hall said. “Down. Down.”

Hall is not just some guy. He is a lawyer by trade who made a movie called “Compromised” about the Confederate flag and pushed for it to come down for decades. He organized and spoke at rallies in the summer of 2015 between the massacre in Charleston and the removal of the flag. He spoke before thousands of people – white and black.

He spoke of love and unity and how that flag is neither.

He knows the history of the Confederate flag and the Citadel like probably no one else. He is proud of his heritage, too, but respects how that flag means hate to blacks.

That flag, said Hall, was abused, and politicians pushed to fly it at the Citadel and the Statehouse, politicians who wished there were still slavery.

“Who puts a battle flag in a church?” Hall wondered.

Hall has spent the last two decades researching that flag, talking about that flag, pushing for the flag to come down. Hall has asked to speak before the S.C. Legislature, maybe as early as next week, to give the politicians a history lesson on how those who opposed integration and black equality introduced the Confederate flag to the Citadel chapel.

He will ask those politicians to do the right thing: Take that flag down.

“The question is: Do they have the courage to do what is right?” Hall asked.

Last year, it took nine murders in June for politicians to do what was right. Maybe in June 2016, the South Carolina Legislature will act without needing to wipe up rivers of spilled blood and tears first.