The following editorial appeared Thursday in The (Hilton Head) Island Packet:
South Carolina does not need to uproot every vestige of the Confederacy.
It cannot change the names on every building, bridge or street that honors heroes of the slavery and Jim Crow eras.
But at the same time, the speaker of the House of Representatives should not declare that as long as he holds the job, the House will not entertain discussion of such changes.
Speaker Jay Lucas is not a dictator. Should it be the will of the people to change old monuments, the House should not turn a deaf ear.
After all, no one foresaw the Confederate flag being removed from the Statehouse grounds. But it happened on July 10, following the June 17 massacre of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church.
Likewise, no one today should pronounce that further separation from shameful old policies and heroes cannot happen.
The root of the problem is the Heritage Act of 2000. It gives the legislature power to control every monument in the state. It requires a two-thirds super-majority vote in the General Assembly to make a change.
The Heritage Act usurps home rule. It places an onerous burden on the people. It was part of a compromise to get the Confederate flags out of the House and Senate chambers and off the capitol dome in 2000. Events of the past month show that it is a hindrance to the state of South Carolina. The Heritage Act should not only be fair game for discussion; its principles of tying the hands of local communities should be repealed.
The lightning rod for further change on the Statehouse grounds is the statue of former governor and U.S. Sen. “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman. He was a bombastic populist and violent racist. His views, thankfully, seem repugnant today. However, the grounds are full of memorials to flawed men whose place in history cannot be erased.
What the public needs is a more complete story. The state needs more memorials like the African-American History Monument on the Statehouse grounds.
Primarily, the state needs local communities and institutions to deal with their own monuments and names. If Clemson University or Winthrop University wants to rename Tillman Hall, they should be able to do it without interference from the General Assembly.
We are confident that South Carolinians of the future will no longer accept the spin of the “segregation now, segregation forever” crowd who put up all these monuments.