Black or white, Yankee or Southern, native-born or immigrant, we all live in a part of the country with deep roots to its past - even if many of our county's residents just got here.
Some whose families have been here a while, like John Partridge, believe much of the unique character of the South was formed in the unfortunate crucible of the War Between the States. Partridge, whose family was in Columbia County before the county's boundaries were established in 1790, is commander of the Evans camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Others, like Keith Moses, who moved to Columbia County 17 years ago, prefer to look ahead to the county's promising future while rejecting the region's often-racist image and hateful past.
Partridge is white, and Moses is black. Their comments, and remarks from others this past week as Columbia County commissioners debated naming April as Confederate History Month, seem to reveal a chasm of opinion.
The two men may be surprised to find their views really aren't so far apart - or that county commissioners have led the way in bridging the divide.
Here's an example: A couple of years ago, a more-radical group of the SCV pushed for installation of a monument to the county's Civil War dead at the new Justice Center, even though such a monument already stands with other war memorials at Patriots Park.
The group also wanted a Confederate Battle Flag engraved on the marker, and they wanted it parked in front of the courthouse.
Where were the angry protests? There were none, because commissioners, working with the more-accommodating Partridge, defused the potential controversy by voting to place the monument, without the polarizing Battle Flag image, in the memorial gardens behind the courthouse.
Likewise, unlike many other communities, there was none of the bickering a few weeks ago when, for the first time, the county designated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday as a holiday for county employees.
Do those actions sound like those of a bunch of thoughtless racists? Sure, commissioners can fumble; it was awful judgment for Chairman Ron Cross, after commissioners approved the Confederate History Month designation, to whip out an already prepared proclamation and present it to Partridge. Though the Commission's staff routinely frames such proclamations before a vote, Cross's gesture caused opponents of the designation to call the whole debate a "mockery."
But "racist"? No.
Let's be frank. There are hordes of people who use the phrase "Southern heritage" as code language for white supremacy. Those sad-sack losers fortunately are gradually evaporating from the gene pool. But there are also plenty of upright men like John Partridge, for whom Southern heritage encapsulates the uniqueness of a rich, diverse region of America.
Good people like Partridge and the commissioners should understand the resentment from equally good men like Moses, for whom much of the South's history is decidedly unpleasant. But men like Moses should also try to understand that it's unfair to stereotype as racist any commemoration of our region's history.
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