WMU News

Controversy over Confederate flag will be 'gone with the wind'

May 12, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- Now that the South Carolina's House has okayed the bill to remove the Confederate flag flying above the statehouse, will the controversy that has accompanied this issue for the past several months experience the same fate?

Yes, says Dr. John A. Clark, Western Michigan University assistant professor of political science and an expert on the Confederate flag controversy.

"In the short term, it'll still be in the public consciousness, but it won't linger forever," Clark says. "Based on examples where situations like this have occurred elsewhere in the country, once the flag is down, almost no one calls for it to be put back up. Typically people tend to forget about it."

Even so, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which led the brigade to remove the flag, is not happy with the bill and plans to continue its tourism boycott of the state. The organization's dissent stems from the bill's proposal that the flag will be flown, instead, above a Confederate War memorial in close proximity to the statehouse.

"This was truly a compromise bill," Clark explains. "Opposition to it has come from both supporters and opponents of the flag. No one is looking at this bill as a victory for either side. A big part of this controversy is that each side feels that it is not respected by the other. Both sides are saying 'we didn't win.'"

The bill still has a hurdle or two to cross -- first, the South Carolina Senate must approve the House changes to the bill before the bill heads to the desk of Gov. Jim Hodges. Hodges has said he will sign any bill the Legislature passes to remove the flag.

But don't expect this familiar Southern symbol to whither from sight, Clark says.

"This will actually make the flag an even more important issue to some people in the South," he says. "They view this as being told what to do by outside forces, which goes right back to the states' rights issues that sparked the Civil War. I am sure there are some South Carolina legislators who are quite concerned about the next re-election."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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