Culture, as usual
By D.R.E. James / Photos by D.R.E. James
The vitriol I experienced that day was so sickening, I couldn’t even enjoy the rest of my gelato. I was both angry and befuddled. Nobody told me this was Charleston.
Standoffs on The Battery are becoming more dramatic by the weekend. TheSons Of The Confederate Veterans,Flags Across The SouthandWe The Peopleare on one side of the street whileBlack Lives MatterandUPLIFT CHARLESTON,mixed in with random non-affiliated citizens, position themselves on the other.
Half a decade before Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck until he lay in street lifeless stoking underlying racial tension, The Sons Of Confederate Veterans, Flags Across the South and We The People have been an embarrassing yet faithful fixture on The Battery.
I’ve seen Confederate battle flags all my life: on bumper stickers, pocket knives, and bikinis, I’ve even seen them painted on hermit crab shells in Myrtle Beach. I always chalked it up as silly redneck shenanigans. My first time on The Battery was in 2017, and it's where for the first time in my life I saw the flag flying with such gallantry. The vitriol I experienced that day was so sickening, I couldn’t even enjoy the rest of my gelato. I was both angry and befuddled. Nobody told me this was Charleston.
This past week the activist group,Stand As One,wrote a letter to theCity of Charlestonpertaining to the Confederate flag being displayed, especially in public parks. They cited a pair of assaults in three weeks: on July 5th and July 19th. They also noted that they had been denied permits to assemble and protest by theCharleston Police Department,only to find out that permits were readily granted to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. When asked why the Confederate flag supporters got a permit, Lt. Jason Bruder of the Charleston Police Department responded by saying, “they’ve been here for 5 years. I’m not going to issue one to you before them.”
If we continue to stroll past the promenade on Sunday allowing this display of hatred disguised as heritage, we are complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy in Charleston, South Carolina.
What I've come to realize since moving to Charleston in the Spring of 2017 is that this a haven for groups who fly Confederate battle flags every Sunday. They find comfort in knowing that a little less than a mile from where they stand, Union troops were bombarded atFort Sumterin defense of of human bondage.
They find comfort in David Compton and hisOld South Carriage Companyclunking past the Old Slave Market on Chalmers Street, outfitted like Rebel soldiers — in grey trousers, kepi hats and red sashes — cosplaying a lost cause to the delight of tourists and locals alike.
They find comfort in a city where funding for affordable housing and education takes a backseat to the upkeep of plantations; one that spends millions to recover, restore and maintain theC.S.S. Hunley,a Confederate submarine that sank in the nearby harbor in 1864 — not to be confused with the replica on display in front of theCharleston Museum.
Something must be done, whether we all muster up the courage of the late activist Muhiyyidin Moye and start snatching the flags from their clutches or engage in a more diplomatic manner like Mrs. Bree Newsome Bass. If we continue to stroll past the promenade on Sunday allowing this display of hatred disguised as heritage, we are complicit in the perpetuation of white supremacy in Charleston, South Carolina.