The incoming leader of the S.C. legislative black caucus, the Rock Hill NAACP and others say they will meet Monday with York Tech President Greg Rutherford to voice their displeasure.
The Rock Hill and Western York County branches of the NAACP released a statement on the SCV event at York Tech late Thursday.
In the statement, the groups called it “an underestimation of the current racial tensions in America,” adding that it “seems like a blatant disregard for the historic decision” by South Carolina last year to remove the Confederate flag from its Statehouse.
Those opposed to the flag, and to the Rock Hill campus hosting a convention by a group that displays and promotes it, say they have been holding strategy sessions. They plan to voice their outrage to elected leaders, including the Rock Hill City Council, York County Council and others.
So far, white elected leaders have said nothing.
The issue is not the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ First Amendment right to free speech: The issue that concerns NAACP leaders and others is the Confederate flag, a public college and taxpayer money.
South Carolina took down the Confederate flag from its Statehouse grounds in 2015 after a white supremacist and Confederate flag supporter in Charleston was charged with nine murders of black people in a downtown church.
Black leaders and others say they see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racial hatred, bigotry, Jim Crow segregation and continued enmity toward equality for blacks.
“History makes it all too clear that the ‘Confederate flag’ was more widely embraced during resistance to reconstruction and during its resurgence as a Ku Klux Klan emblem than it did by fallen veterans of the Civil War,” said Dr. Jacques Days, Rock Hill NAACP president.
The NAACP wants “thoughtful deliberation, earnest discussion and willing reconciliation” with York Tech and its decision to host a group that supports the Confederate flag, Days said.
The convention in March 2017 is likely to draw protests, black leaders say, if York Tech does not withdraw from its contract with the SCV. The SCV states on its website “One comes down, many go up” about the Confederate flag.
The Confederate flag is the SCV emblem and its leaders have refused to say the Civil War was about slavery, claiming their group is about heritage.
York Tech has at least a quarter black students among its 5,000-plus enrollment on campuses in York, Chester and Lancaster counties.
State Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, the incoming black caucus chairman in the General Assembly and the only black member of the York County legislative delegation, said he will attend the meeting Monday with Rutherford.
The meeting may include many black leaders from the clergy, NAACP, elected officials, business leaders and more.
“Look at how far we have come forward in this state,” King said. “To have this flies in the face of the people who worked to have the flag taken down. Rock Hill has a slogan ‘No Room for Racism.’ This goes against those very words.”
York County Councilman William “Bump” Roddey, the only black member of the County Council and a York Tech alum, said Rock Hill has advanced far in race relations with law enforcement and other ways.
But he said the county will be permanently scarred with a “stigma” of this convention that supports the Confederate Flag.
“It is a stain on all that hard work,” Roddey said.
Bucky Sutton, commander of the Micah Jenkins Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans, declined to comment.
York Tech President Rutherford has not made any statements on the college’s contract with the SCV since he found out about it from The Herald last month. Efforts to reach Rutherford for comment about Monday’s meeting were unsuccessful.
York Tech leaders were caught unaware of the SCV contract, as bookers at the campus Baxter Hood Center contracted the event without the telling senior leadership, who found out about the convention from The Herald.
NAACP statement on York Technical College contract to host Sons of Confederate Veterans convention:
“Representatives of the Rock Hill and Western York Branches of the NAACP, along with several elected officials, ministers, business persons, and concerned citizens have been meeting recently to address concerns about the administrative decision by York Technical College to host the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Convention on March 17-18, 2017. A major concern for us is the perspective of the SCV that as “one [confederate flag] comes down, many [will] go up.” The “confederate flag” is a symbol of division and has, all too often, been used as a symbol of hatred and violence. As such, we see this decision by York Tech, which has campuses in York, Chester, and Lancaster Counties, as an underestimation of the current racial tensions in America, recently displayed right next door in Charlotte. Moreover, it seems like a blatant disregard for the historic decision by Governor Nikki Haley, the South Carolina Legislature, and the will of well-meaning citizens throughout our state memorialized by signing the removal of the flag into law using 9 pens, each representing the 9 individuals murdered during the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church, in Charleston less than a month prior to its passage. History makes it all too clear that the “confederate flag” was more widely embraced during resistance to reconstruction and during its resurgence as a Ku Klux Klan emblem than it did by fallen veterans of the civil war. This has come to the fore because it represents some deeper issues that need to be addressed. The current race relations climate requires thoughtful deliberation, earnest discussion, and willing reconciliation. It is this message we will carry to Dr. Greg Rutherford, President of York Tech, when we meet with him next week as we impress upon him the reasons we oppose the SCV convention. We want the communities served by York Tech to believe that York Tech will do everything necessary to show that it is another institution where there is “no room for racism.”