The Debatable Effects of Boycotting

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The South Carolina NAACP is going to war with Lost Causers:

The South Carolina NAACP will use its annual January State House rally to oppose cuts to state health care and education programs as well as a proposed Arizona-style immigration bill. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally also will renew the S.C. NAACP's call to remove the Confederate flag from the State House grounds and for groups to boycott S.C. tourism until the flag is placed in a museum, S.C. chapter president Lonnie Randolph said Wednesday. 

The civil rights group also plans to use the rally to counter myths about the origins of the Civil War, which began 150 years ago in South Carolina. "We don't celebrate atrocities of any kind," Randolph said, referring to a recent gala to mark the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession. "Things don't heal that easily. ... We take it seriously."

There is something that really strikes me as wrong about urging people to not visit South Carolina on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. I was listening to the radio a few days ago, and the mayor of Charleston was discussing the significance of the city's slave ports in American history. I haven't seen this on paper, but he claimed something like 20 percent of all African-American have an ancestor that came through Charleston. Whether that's true, or not, you're talking about a state with a unique place in black history, in particular, and American history at large.

My thoughts on Earlyism are quite clear. 1.) The Confederacy was a failed attempt to build a republic almost wholly on white supremacy. 2.) The Confederate flag is not simply the symbol of that effort, but the symbol embraced by the murderers of presidents, alleged Redeemers, jack-booted White Liners, Red Shirts and the Ku Klux Klan. 3.) Thus the flag is not simply a standard of white Supremacy, but of assassination, and profligate thuggism and unvarnished homegrown terrorism. The effort to wash this away is based in ignorance--in some cases willful, in others not so much. But you can not shame sin from the world. 

At some point we have to stop telling people what they can't believe in, and start telling them what they can. At some point we have push a positive view of history, not in the sense of white-washing, but in the sense of something beyond debunking. I don't know that you can banish the Confederate flag from the South. I don't know that you can make Tennessee come to terms with Nathan Bedford Forrest. But surely you can shine a light on Ida B Wells, Prince Rivers, Cassius Clay and Elizabeth Van Lew.

This last year has really, to my mind, reaffirmed the value of the NAACP. But this is the kind of move that feeds the notion that they're just a group of whiners. 

At some point, there has to be something more than "You're wrong."
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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