By ANDREW COFFMAN SMITH
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ A black Republican candidate for superintendent of South Carolina schools has called on the NAACP to end its business boycott of the state in protest of the Confederate flag flying on Statehouse grounds.
Gary Burgess, a member of the Anderson County School Board, said Saturday the boycott is hurting education by preventing visits from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and denying the state money from NCAA tournament events.
Burgess said the boycott achieved its aim in 2000 when the flag was removed from the Capitol dome. Since then, the flag has flown on a 20-foot pole at the Confederate Solider Monument in front of the Statehouse in an attempt at compromise, which the NAACP rejected.
Burgess made the announcement outside the Statehouse at the African-American History Memorial, which was built as part of the 2000 compromise.
Coincidently, during Burgess’ announcement a handful of Sons of Confederate Veterans observed Confederate Memorial Day with a wreath laying at the Civil War monument. The Sons of Confederate Veterans have in years past picketed the NAACP’s annual protest of the Confederate flag on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
At a February meeting of the National School Boards Association in Washington, Burgess said he asked an NAACP representative when the civil rights group was going to visit South Carolina to assist with education in addition to their flag protests. Burgess said he wanted the NAACP’s help in addressing the “abysmal academic achievement” of young black males who are at the “bottom of every academic measure” in a state that ranks last in education achievement levels according to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Burgess said he was told the NAACP couldn’t come because of the boycott.
“We are stuck almost in a time warp,” said Burgess. “At some point you need to know when to say `yes, we won’.”
South Carolina NAACP president Dr. Lonnie Randolph said the sanctions will remain in place until the flag is taken down and that the boycott has nothing to do with education.
Randolph said education can be properly funded regardless of the boycott if wealthier citizens contributed a fairer share in taxes.
“It is unfortunate that this state has made a decision to be first in everything that is last and last in everything that’s first,” Randolph said.
“This isn’t the first boycott by the way that has taken place in the state and it won’t be the last,” Randolph said. “African-Americans have never gotten anything accomplished in the state of South Carolina and in most states in the South by having conversations with people in positions of authority. It has taken the death of someone… a war, a constitutional amendment (and) a Supreme Court decision in order to get the most basic things done and that includes education.”