- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2015

Prominent black commentators, including a presidential candidate, are weighing in on the post-Charleston debate over the Confederate flag, and doing so in a way that brings together race and class, the First and Second amendments, and even a presidential eulogy.

“It does shock me that there could be this kind of hatred and cruelty, and just a dead soul in the world,” said Armstrong Williams, manager and sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and executive editor of American CurrentSee online magazine. “If this kid exists — imagine how many more are out there. Not necessarily in states that wave Confederate flags, but just — it’s frightening.”

Mr. Williams, who pens a weekly column for The Washington Times, said the apparent racial animus that drove a gunman to open fire in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and kill nine parishioners is more worrisome than anything al Qaeda or other foreign terrorists might wreak on American soil.

“It’s much more dangerous than any kind of terrorism that we ever thought we were fighting against,” said Mr. Williams, whose cousin, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, was the church’s pastor and one of those killed in the shooting.

In light of the danger of such incidents, Mr. Williams argues that churchgoers should be able to carry concealed weapons for self-protection. Ending the no-gun zone policy in churches could, in his view, serve as a preventive measure.

“You have to accept the world we are in. And the bottom line is that if someone who is responsible was armed in that church, less people would have died,” Mr. Williams said. “This kid knew it was a no-gun zone, he knew the church would not have a gun, he knew it would not be armed — and he exploited it. This is not about the church — it’s about the evil that exists.”

Under South Carolina law, Emanuel AME and every other church in the state were gun-free zones unless the pastor explicitly gave permission for someone to carry a weapon onto church grounds.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is running for the Republican nomination for president, echoed Mr. Williams’ sentiments as to the reprehensible nature of the Charleston massacre and the right to carry in church.

“Obviously, you would prefer a situation where we have a society where people don’t kill [and where] they don’t have to have firearms in churches, but we haven’t achieved that yet,” Mr. Carson said.

Asked whether carrying a weapon inside a house of worship is antithetical to the peaceful message of Jesus, Mr. Carson responded: “I don’t think that Christ would blame somebody for protecting themselves and their loved ones.”

Mr. Carson also pointed out that, in spite of the gunman’s apparent aims to bring about a race war via terrorism, the incident in Charleston “doesn’t say anything about the society at large.”

“In fact, when you look at the unity that was produced, it does say something about the people of South Carolina. It’s something very positive,” he said.

Mr. Carson said far too many “agents of division” exist within American society that attempt to drive wedges among people based on race, income, religion or social group. The key to overcoming such divides, he said, is to not allow the actions of one individual to stand for the beliefs of all.

“Let’s stop allowing ourselves to be whipped up into a frenzy over every incident that occurs,” Mr. Carson said, “and let’s stop letting people make this into one of those divisive issues when in fact this is an individual case.”

Shirley Husar, who appears in an episode of the Lifetime show “Living With the Enemy,” premiering Thursday, argues that the country is entering a “civil war” as racial and class-based tensions are constantly exposed in the interconnected world of social media.

“To understand black culture, it’s interesting that the new generation of understanding what they’ve always been doing to [blacks] is now on the forefront,” Ms. Husar said. “Technology has come back in a different manner than before. People weren’t connecting the dots, but because of social media, dots are now being connected.”

Ms. Husar weighed in on the Confederate flag debate that has taken over social media in the past couple of weeks, calling it is a “loser flag.”

“Goodbye to the Confederate flag. We respect the final [American] flag, not the flag of the past, but the flag of present representation. We all know what that [Confederate] flag represented — that’s why they lost,” Ms. Husar said.

Mr. Williams said Americans “don’t get to fly [the Confederate flag] in pride,” as it represents the lost cause of slavery.

“When you lose a war, you don’t get the right to still fly your relic,” he said. “It could mean different things to different people, but you cannot erase its origins: They were fighting to preserve slavery, and they lost.”

Additionally, Mr. Williams urges the government to take down the Confederate flag “out of respect and tribute” to Mr. Pinckney, who also served in South Carolina’s House and Senate for 18 years.

“That flag did not come off that pole and cause the terrorist attack of those nine innocent lives, but we must realize that symbols are important,” Mr. Williams recently said during a C-SPAN interview, reflecting on his slain kin.

Mr. Williams will host a special town hall version of his “Right Side Hour” Forum at 4 p.m. EDT Friday, when guests will discuss young people, race and social media in America.

He gave credit to President Obama for delivering the eulogy at Mr. Pinckney’s funeral, saying on C-SPAN, “The president reminding this country of the importance of that church was nothing short of profound.”

Likewise, Mr. Carson points to the forgiveness that families of the shooting victims publicly bestowed upon the gunman. “It really denied him what he was trying to do — to create racial strife. They denied that to him.”

• Eric Althoff can be reached at twt@washingtontimes.com.

• Emily Leslie can be reached at eleslie@washingtontimes.com.

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