South Carolina is officially doing away with the Confederate flag

It’s old news that the South can be slow to enact big change (see: the resignation of an entire county clerk office in Tennessee over the recent gay marriage ruling), but that doesn’t mean that Southerners and Southern institutions are incapable of turning the tide. In a landmark decision, the South Carolina Senate voted on Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol building — permanently.

The decision comes less than three weeks after the shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which resulted in the deaths of nine Black people, ranging in age from 26 to 87, all at the hands of accused shooter Dylann Roof. The tragedy sparked a long-standing debate over the true meaning of the Confederate battle flag (see our take on it here), ultimately resulting in a call for removal by Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley who deemed the flag a “deeply offensive symbol of a brutally offensive past.”

The South Carolina Senate seems to have heard her call, loud and clear. The vote was near-unanimous with 37 senators voting in favor and just three voting against a measure that would move the flag to the state’s Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

But the battle isn’t quite over: As with the federal government, the bill must next go before the South Carolina House of Representatives, whose 124 members could decide whether or not to pass the bill as early as Thursday. It’s expected that, in a show of bipartisanship and in keeping with the Senate, the bill will pass the House. From there, it will be ratified by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Haley.

“We did our job,” Senator and lead legislator on the bill Vincent A. Sheheen told the New York Times. “I do think that it sends a very loud and clear message to the House of Representatives that there is support, momentum, consensus, and I think it helps us clear the hurdles that we need to in the House of Representatives.”

“[The flag] doesn’t represent all of the people of South Carolina,” Republican Senator Larry Martin told The Post and Courier. “It isn’t part of our future. It’s part of our past.”

Meanwhile, outside the capitol, protestors on both sides of the debate clashed over the,  “heritage versus hatred” argument surrounding the flag, proving that a legislative vote ending a more than 50-year-old practice certainly won’t fix every problem nor heal every wound.

But with the desk of Senator Clementa Pinckney, one of the victims of the church shooting, draped in black, the senators in attendance seemed ready to start working toward a solution.

“There’s a quiet bigotry that still exists,” Senator Sheheen said from the Senate floor. “And if those of us who are white don’t say anything . . .  then we’re part of the problem. [The flag] is one small step that reduces the culture of division.”

It’s time to take down the Confederate flag

Jon Stewart on the Confederate flag debate — you’ll want to watch this

[Image via Shutterstock]