I sat and I listened, all day long with great interest, and empathy, for what was said.
But I too would point out, that when we begin to talk about ‘Grace’ we really need to evaluate what that really means.
Grace is not something that we earn, grace is something that comes to us un-earned.
When we talk about ‘this situation’ with that flag in front of the State House, I would point out to you that in all the conversations that we heard today, they all focused on one side of this situation.
It was all about the Confederate dead, it was not about others who suffered and died too.
I even heard conversations about African Americans who fought for the confederacy, and I did a little research and what I turned up was this:
Did you know that in South Carolina, there were no blacks who fought for the confederacy, because the confederate congress did not approve black soldiers fighting in the confederacy until a month before Appomattox.
And if you look at your timeline you’ll find that Sherman marched through and burned Columbia two months before Appomattox.
So, what I want you to understand, is this:
When we talk about ‘grace’ and we talk about this issue, we really ought to be talking about the whole ball of wax here, all of us.
I find it interesting that no one brought up the fact that there were a million-plus Africans here, who were suffering under the weight of enslavement, and it wasn’t really mentioned and no one talked about what they were going through.
And they went through it for almost four hundred years.
I think that when we talk about Grace, we have to extend grace to everybody, not just one-way grace, but universal grace. And what do I mean by that?
That flag that stands outside has stood as a thumb in the eye of those families in Charleston who lost loved-ones. And we all know it.
And the response that this body Should give, is a moment of grace to those families. Not just grace to the confederate dead, but grace to those who are suffering right now, who’re still alive.
The grace that this body can extend to those families right now is to remove that flag, is to remove that flag pole, to not delay this process, to do it as expeditiously as we can, to make sure that those families understand, that this body understands what happened, that we grieve with them, and we extend to them: Grace.
Once we’ve extended grace to them, maybe it’s in God’s providence to extend grace to all of us, individually and collectively.
But grace is not something that’s cheap, and it’s not something that should be used as a political maneuver, it is something in the providence of He who sits high and looks low.
What I would tell you, at this moment, is that those of us who care about what happened in Charleston, that care about the pain that this state has suffered as a result of it, we ought to be extending grace to those people of Charleston, those families, and that grace means ‘Let’s remove that flag, let’s do it now,’ that doesn’t mean that we don’t respect the confederate dead and what they fought for…
If that is your heritage I understand you loving and supporting your ‘heritage.’
But ‘Grace’ means that you ought to also love and support Mine.
It’s not a one-way street.
My heritage is based on a group of people who were brought here in chains. Who were denigrated. Demagogued. Lynched and killed. Denied the right to vote. Denied the right to even have a family.
Let me tell you a quick story of my family.
There were four brothers, that much we know.
They were purchased by a slave owner by the name of Neal.
He brought them to Sumter County, and one of them was taken to Kershaw County, that much we know. We know that two of them emigrated to Richland County, and one remained in Sumter.
We know that their original name was not Neal, that the family name at that time was Devaux; they were from a French-speaking colony in West Africa.
We know that those four brothers never saw one-another again. We know that their children that were born on the plantations in Sumter and lower Richland and Kershaw county, they were never able to have their children, because their children were sold away from them.
I want you to understand that these are the kinds of stories that exist in our community. They’re stories of pain and suffering, that I ask you to consider, as you ask me to consider grace on this issue.
When that flag stands out front, the entire African American community feels the pain, and that pain is intensified when things happen like Charleston. When groups like the Klu Klux Klan and the Conservative Citizens Council and other groups use that flag as a banner, and use it as an excuse to hate, and kill, and to burn and to bomb.
We talk about ‘Grace,’ let’s give grace where grace needs to be, not just one way, but for all of us.
I know I need grace, and I think you do too.
In fact, all of South Carolina needs grace because at this moment, we’ve got some hard decisions to make, and the whole world is watching us.
The whole world is asking: “Is South Carolina really going to change? Or will it hold to an ugly tradition of prejudice and discrimination?
And hide behind “heritage” as an excuse for it?
You need to understand that if South Carolina really wants to extend grace to those in this state that are hurting over what happened in Charleston, NOW is the time to do it.
This is the hour.
This is where each and every one of us should be searching our souls about what we need to do on this amendment.
This amendment does one thing in my view: It delays the removal of the Confederate flag. That’s what it does.
And if it is a strategy to do that, then shame on us.
I spoke with several members here who I know are proud of their heritage, and I said to them: I’m in support of you, honoring your heritage, I think all of our heritages should be recognized. I may not be able to celebrate your heritage with you, but I can recognize your right to celebrate it for yourself.
And you ought to be able to do the same with me.
All of us are part of a tapestry. Our history, our lives, are all part of a seamless tapestry.
And that tapestry involves some things that are very good, and some things that are very bad, but we need to recognize that fact.
That we’re all part of the same tapestry.
Finally, I want to mention this, as I finish.
This Body has the potential to set a course for South Carolina into the future.
We have the ability to set the new image for South Carolina in the world.
And my hope tonight, is that we will do so.
By mutually respecting one-another.
By mutually respecting one-another’s heritage, and one-another’s history.
Now, I want to end by simply saying this:
Someone got up here and said ‘Well, you want to move every Confederate monument.”
That’s not even on the table, nobody’s talking about it, I don’t know where that’s coming from.
What I am in support of is telling the whole truth.
And if truth be known, I think it would help South Carolina to tell the truth about our history, and that’s what we need to do. Not hide it. Not erase it. Not water it down.
But tell the truth about what this state has gone through, about what its’ people have gone through, about what significant figures in this state have done, and let the truth educate us so that we don’t make the same mistakes made in the past today and tomorrow.