- The Washington Times - Friday, April 14, 2000

The good news is that the NAACP has shunned compromise. The bad news is that the NAACP, the repository of the nation's heritage, is afraid to go far enough.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People declared itself "unsatisfied" Thursday in the wake of the South Carolina surrender of the Confederate flag.
The state Senate in Columbia nevertheless gave its final approval to a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the dome of the Statehouse, where it now flies with Old Glory and the palmetto flag of the once-sovereign state of South Carolina. The state House of Representatives is expected to follow next week and the governor, a Democrat who owes his office to the shunning of the flag by his Republican predecessor, has been practicing his signature for weeks.
The Republicans, being Republicans, have been practicing graceful surrender for weeks, too.
"I think there's a realization that long term this is harmful to our state," says David Wilkins, the speaker of the House and a "supporter" of the flag. "I think that's persuaded many people to find an area of compromise. The boycott certainly has not been positive."
Nevertheless, several black members of the state legislature, scenting a rout, say the compromise, to fly the Confederate naval ensign at a Confederate memorial on the lawn of the Statehouse on a pole "no higher than 20 feet," is offensive. The executive committee of the national NAACP voted unanimously against the compromise, and the national organization backs the state chapter.
Well, why not? Once you get a Republican on the run, there's no end to the humiliation and abnegation he'll take in your behalf. There are good and sufficient reasons to retire the Confederate banner from its place of sovereignty above the Statehouse to honor it in other ways, but none of the reasons requires mortification.
State Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Republican who owns a Confederate memorabilia shop in Charleston and who is terrified that a NAACP boycott of South Carolina will cut into his sales of souvenir Minie balls, invoked the name of Robert E. Lee to assuage the sentiments of Confederate descendants, of whom South Carolina has a gracious plenty. "The hour has come as it came with General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia," he says, without explaining the relevance of his invocation of the men who gave their blood, their honor and their lives in defense of the South. Pretty big talk from a man whose only brush with shedding blood is giving up a tiny vial of the stuff for his annual prostate exam.
The NAACP boycott, which took effect Jan. 1, has been honored by the New York Knicks basketball team and the American Bar Association, which some people say is responsible for a sharp decrease in rape, murder, mayhem and cheap fraud in South Carolina. However, the state has lost almost $7 million in cancellations of conventions and meetings, and money talks.
Correct-thinking Americans can only hope the NAACP and its allies will pursue the purification of our history with determination and dispatch. We must not stop at merely stamping out the memories of Southerners. Two such stains on the breast of the republic are found right here in the nation's capital, the memorials to Jefferson, who sexually harassed Sally Hemings, and Lincoln, whose primitive views of race relations would make David Duke blush (and probably has). Jefferson's crimes are well known. Lincoln's are less so, given the Republican cult that has grown up around the 16th president. How can reasonable men not want to tear down these shrines of worship among us, now that the awful flag has been furled over Carolina? The memorials might make nice shopping malls a Gap at the Jefferson Memorial, a Wal-Mart at Mr. Lincoln's place.)
Here's Lincoln's famous view of the races, offered in 1858: "I will say that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes [small cap his], nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality."
And it gets worse, much worse. You could look it up. Lee never talked like that, and old Pat Cleburne sacrificed his fourth star to the cause of freeing slaves and taking them into his regiments. Lincoln never recanted his views, and indeed, on the night the Union finally drove old Dixie down he asked a military band to play "Dixie" on the White House lawn. What more do we need to know?

Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.



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