A Different World

Is life for black South Carolinians different because the Confederate flag is gone? If so, how?

I was there Friday morning with my wife and two kids when the Confederate flag was finally taken off S.C. State House grounds after flying there for more than half a century.

Since then, I’ve tried to stay away from the subject to collect my thoughts, to really explore my range of emotions before commenting. And I’ll provide a bit more reflection this weekend in a column.

But I wanted to touch on a question someone raised this past weekend, and she directed it towards black people in South Carolina:

Now that the Confederate flag is down, how has your life changed?

I think she asked it to imply that it was a silly, overblown fight.

It wasn’t.

One big change for me? A silent anger I had been carrying around about the flag and its defenders has all but dissipated. As we walked back to our car from the flag lowering, we happened upon this young white couple in a pick-up truck at a red light with two large Confederate flags flying in the truck’s bed.

I noticed the flag, and the woman in the truck noticed me noticing the flags and, with a scowl on her face, began to mouth what seemed to be hostile words. What did I do? Kept walking, with a larger smile than the one I had before the 5-second encounter.

I no longer cared that she had the flag or loved it. At that moment, because the Confederate flag had already been removed from a place that was supposed to represent us all, it was just the two of us, two South Carolina residents on equal ground.

The state of South Carolina was no longer backing her views to the exclusion of mine. We could fuss and fight or ignore or love each other - and that’s it - and it be just about us, as individuals.

That may seem like a small thing to those who haven’t been on this side of the issue for decades, but it’s as though a dark cloud has been lifted.

And I can say this with a truthfulness that I’ve never been able to muster before: You revere the Confederate flag? Then put it on your pick-up truck, on your T-shirts, or tattoo it to your forehead for all I care. Because I don’t.

I’d love to hear others’ views about how things are different in their lives, too.