The Confederate flag has become “a scapegoat for people who have a lot of built-up anger and hatred about what happened so many years ago,” said Goose Creek resident Jeff Junkins.
“One of the biggest things Charleston is known for is the first shot of the Civil War,” Junkins said. “You can’t get rid of that. Most of our income coming in is from tourists coming in to see plantations, the forts and all that stuff. It’s all based off of that war. I think it’s ridiculous to try to hide that one part of that war.”
“If you get rid of a flag, it’s not going to get rid of racism. It’s not going to get rid of what happened years ago,” he said, adding that he rarely sees one flying in the community. “In all honesty, on a day-to-day basis, I probably don’t see one at all.”
Charleston tourist Sean Bernave, who is African-American, said he and his wife traveled to the city from Atlanta to learn more about its Civil War history. “As difficult as it is to embrace some of our historical choices that we as a nation have made, those were made by our forefathers. There’s a responsibility in understanding that is historic,” he said.
The Confederate flag is a consequence of living in a free country, he said. “I find that it continues to mark a period of history that some choose to continue to memorialize and others choose to distance themselves because of what it represents and how it came into being,” Bernave said. “If it is offensive to some, should be offensive to all.”
“It will always represent hate,” and a time when labor-intensive cotton was the economy of the South, said Elder James Johnson, president of the National Action Network, a civil rights group. “People don’t want to admit it, but the Civil War was fought for slavery.”
He added, “It puts a bad taste in my mouth every time I see one.”