Beginning today, the South Carolina legislature is set to debate passing a measure that would remove the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds. As a magazine that celebrates the best of Southern culture, moreover as a magazine headquartered in the state of South Carolina, we hope that measure passes.
We are not a magazine that covers politics or editorializes. But we are a Southern magazine. Every issue as we talk to people around the region and tell their stories, we are reminded of what makes the South a special place—its abundance of natural treasures, its cultural richness, its creative spirit, its food, its music, and most important, its people. For those reasons, we are proud to call the South home. We are proud to be Southerners. There are better ways to show it than a flag that is divisive, hurtful to many, and tied to a painful history. That doesn’t embody the South we love.
The last couple of weeks here in Charleston, our home city, have been truly remarkable to witness. In the face of a tragedy that showed us the worst of humanity, we have also seen the best of it. We have seen people join hands in a spirit of unity that should not end just with the removal of a hurtful symbol. There is much to be proud of in the South. And there is much more work that needs to be done. Removing the flag would be a significant statement, but it is also not the end of the conversation.
Like many people in the South and beyond, we’ve been thinking a lot about what happens now. How we can do better, both individually and in our pages. It has always been our goal to be a publication that is representative of the amazing diversity and generosity of spirit that exists here. We can work harder to make sure that our pages and editorial process reflect that.
Too often, the South is seen, especially by those outside the region, as stuck in the past and unwilling to move forward. That South exists. It existed in the mind of an alleged killer so “blinded by hatred,” as President Obama put it, that he “could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group—the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.” It exists in the mind of those who fueled that hatred. As we write this, the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan are planning a rally at the South Carolina State House to protest the flag’s removal. It exists in subtler ways.
But there is another South, a forward-looking South that acknowledges the wrongs of the past and works for a better future, a South that is gracious and kind. We saw that in the actions and boundless compassion of the members of Mother Emanuel. We saw that on the streets of Charleston. We may well see that again at the State Capitol this week. Let’s show the world that South, and let’s keep working to make it a place where all can feel welcome.