This editorial was published in The (Columbia) State:
Here’s something to add to your to-do list for Saturday: Stay away from the State House. Don’t show up to gawk, and certainly don’t show up to demonstrate how much you oppose the ugly, angry racism on display. Just stay away.
Saturday, of course, is the day that the cowards who like to dress up in white sheets and pointy hats will rally at our State House, to protest our decision to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds. As The State’s Andrew Shain reported, members of a North Carolina Ku Klux Klan group say they are “standing up for our Confederate history and all the Southerners who fought and died against federal tyranny.” A recording on the group’s phone line proclaims that “Our government is trying to erase white culture and our heritage right out to the pages of the history books.”
(It’s chilling, isn’t it, to note how much that rhetoric resembles the arguments made by a few members of our Legislature during last week’s flag debate.)
Saturday is also the day that a group will be demonstrating at the State House that is affiliated with the New Black Panther Party, which isn’t as well-known as the KKK but which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.” The Florida-based “Black Educators for Justice” says that members of its group and other black separatist groups want to call attention to racial inequities that remain in our state despite the Confederate flag’s removal.
Frankly, we don’t need help from members of any outside groups — and certainly not these sorts of groups. As we’ve demonstrated with remarkable clarity in the past month, South Carolinians have become perfectly capable of coming together across racial and party and other artificial lines to work for the good of our state. Do we have much more work left to do? Absolutely. But people who will be rallying at the State House on Saturday are not going to help us with that — or anything else.
We recognize that many good and sincere South Carolinians feel a need to demonstrate to the world that such people are not welcome in South Carolina. But there is no need to do that; these are already marginalized groups. No one believes we want them here, or that they represent us. They’re coming to South Carolina because they hope to take advantage of all the national attention on our flag debate to steal a little of the spotlight for themselves.
There’s nothing we can do to stop hate groups from staging rallies at our State House; the Constitution gives even the most odious people and groups the right to hold peaceful protests in such public places. But we can do something even better. We can stop them from accomplishing anything they hope to accomplish — by simply ignoring them.
That’s always the best response to extremists, but there’s even more reason to stay away from the dueling rallies on Saturday, since there have been local media reports that at least the white racists plan to show up armed.
If they’re going to shoot anyone, let it be themselves, not us.