Last night, as we drove past the flag for the last time, we discussed whether we should attend the taking down of the flag this morning. Jay, determined in his identity as a protestor, but not entirely sure of his identity as biracial and "African American" (Are you African American, too, Eesa?), said absolutely. We have to see this moment. Whereas Jor, echoing what he said about the July 4th rally, replied, "I have to say I'm a little worried and uncomfortable. What if confederate flag fliers come to the event with guns and start shooting people? I think I'd rather stay home." Jay, shocked by this response, said, "come on. No one would shoot a kid!" Jor, cynical and wise, responded, "I wouldn't be so sure."
There was silence. Then Jay followed up, "they don't need to know what that is." Jor, however, thought they did need to know what it is. "Racism is when people discriminate against you because of the color of your skin. We fought the Civil War over racism, really, though they haven't studied that in school yet. But you learn about it in school. Like the kid in my class who said he would never date a girl because she was brown." I thought for a long time about all the things kids, South Carolina's kids, have learned about in school, even though it wasn't taught. Which brings me back to Bree Newsome. The kids wanted to know if The Teacher would be there. Would Bree come back to the state house? Was Bree out of jail? Did she actually break the law? She did the right thing, though? Right? Surely, I said, Bree Newsome is still a teacher, even if she doesn't go back to teaching. That seemed to make a lot of sense.
Jor's hesitation won out in the end. It was a big day at camp, a long-anticipated moment of free play on the video games they had designed during an intensive week of programming. So I packed all the kiddies off to camp, and I came back myself to go to the state house. As I walked in the heat from my car, I saw and heard the helicopters whirring overhead and I moved with determination to see this great day with my own eyes. Perhaps in spite of myself, I was slightly nervous some idiot would do something aggressive, dangerous, the last stand before the fall. But before I left the kids, Jor and Jay said, "take a video!" and I didn't want to let them down.
I stood up close at first, but then backed into the shade to wait. There were a lot of memories being shared. People talked about the day the flag came down from the dome and what a victory it was, only to drive down Gervais and to see it with yet another monument built practically overnight, slapping the faces of those who had persisted in finally getting it down. Others, dressed in Confederate battle gear and flying the battle flag, marched on in silence. I wasn't angry at them or even threatened by their presence, they were so diminished in stature and energy beside this sea-change of people who came to witness history. The crowd wasn't angry at them or threatened by their presence. The Confederates, marching on the state house, were swallowed whole in the grace and glory of those who waited, sweating, praying, singing, chanting, hoping in the South Carolina sun to see what they had come so far to see. As I stood there, I surely felt all the power of all the people there with me. Everyone holding everyone else up. Everyone taking it in and trying to believe any of us were going to live to see it happen in our lifetime.