No better with age

State Rep. Jenny Horne (R-Dorchester) receives a hug following her September 22, 2015 Rotary Club presentation at the Westin Poinsett in Greenville, SC.

I’m sorry. I have heard enough about “heritage.” I have a heritage. I am a life-long South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis, okay? But that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the State House grounds. … We need to follow the example of the Senate. Remove this flag and do it today, because this issue is not getting any better with age.

SC State Rep. Jenny Horne, July 8, 2015

“Ya’ll think I’m a crybaby,” she said at one point, and not without cause.

We’d just watched a portion of Jenny Horne’s tearful, now iconic rebuke of the SC state legislature, and here she was over two months later in Greenville repeatedly on the verge of tears again.

But if Rep. Horne chokes up in telling the tale of how South Carolina finally ran out of reasons to fly a Confederate battle flag on the same city block where it makes its laws, she’s no wilting violet. Consider her calmly frank statement that racists still hold office in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Yes, even in the year of Our Lord two thousand fifteen.

It’s one thing to catch a whiff of white power in the “heritage not hate” arguments advanced to forestall the flag’s removal, it’s quite another to hear a sitting member of the House refer to officials who advance such arguments as racists. Horne did so without naming names, I’m sorry to say, but also without any apparent fear of contradiction.

Racists winning elections, whose racism isn’t a matter of speculation, but of fact. A fact known to their fellow legislators and doubtlessly known to not a few of their constituents. Yes, even in the year of Our Lord two thousand fifteen.

As it happens, I’d finished reading Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman that same morning, so my head was bubbling afresh with Old South apologetics. State’s rights and so on. And I’d managed to forgive Atticus, despite my disappointment, not because the apologetics were so compelling, but because he was a product of 19th century America, and because his parents’ generation had fought the Civil War. And okay, fine, I’d loved him like a favorite uncle since I was in high school.

Our current crop of lawmakers, though, whichever ones Jenny Horne was referring to. No excuse possible. None. Whatever racism they harbor, it’s a thing of their own making, and the lady from Dorchester County is absolutely right. It damn sure isn’t getting any better with age.