A flouting of decency
By biconews On 15 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments


When the Philadelphia Inquirer published its front page story on Haverford and Bryn Mawr’s decisions to boycott student sporting events in South Carolina, it coupled the news of the colleges’ actions with another article related to the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag. The headline for this second article offered, “The battle flag: Playing it safe or taking a stand.”

In electing to boycott a state that flies the Confederate battle flag over its capitol building, Haverford and Bryn Mawr stood up and were counted as two institutions that value principle over convenience. In canceling their pre-scheduled and pre-arranged participation at Hilton

Head, the colleges become the first schools in the Philadelphia area to associate themselves with the NAACP-organized tourist boycott.

There is no doubt that the cancellations reminded the college community that the issue at hand is significant.

The boycott involves a national initiative of the foremost national African American civil rights organization. It is intended, in the words of the NAACP website statement, as a set of “economic sanctions” with the goals of having the flag removed from the statehouse rotunda and its legislative chambers, and having it “relegated to a place of historical context, only.”

The “historical context” of the flag calls to mind parallels between the events of the past two months and of the year the flag first appeared atop the capitol, 1962. At that time South Carolina was celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Civil War while repudiating the Civil Rights Movement that was challenging the Southern establishment. Like the boycott movement that currently targets the South Carolina economy, the anti-segregationist actions of 1962 employed economic means in order to achieve societal ends. This meant a struggle through sit-ins at lunch counters and through “freedom riding,” an attempt to force the integration of the interstate bus system. It is in the face of such struggles, in which people endured unwarranted arrests and unprovoked violence, that South Carolina continues to flaunt a flag that the majority of its residents want to have removed from the capitol.

Thus, in boycotting South Carolina, Bryn Mawr and Haverford reject the point of view that the flag is a symbol of Carolina’s so-called “proud heritage.” For the one-third of the state’s population that is African American, for the fifty-two percent of all Carolinians who oppose the flag display, and for the other Americans who derive no pride from human enslavement or Jim Crow laws, the Confederate flag is a symbol of shame.

It is highly laudable that, through its withdrawal from the Hilton Head games, the bi-co community expressed its disapproval of such a flag and such a display of historical arrogance. By joining the NAACP boycott, Bryn Mawr and Haverford signaled that they refuse to condone the white-only, Confederate-only definition of Southern heritage and history that predominates in the Carolina statehouse.

Instead, the colleges followed the precedent that they established in divesting funds in South Africa over a decade ago and, at Haverford, in signing the Workers’ Rights Commission agreement this past December: the precedent of not accepting an unjust status quo.

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