South Carolina is a disturbing example of how difficult it is for people of good will to dispose of toxic layers of bigotry. Audience members listen to US Democratic presidential candidates debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Monday.
The political mantra this year is "change." But South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies on the grounds of the State Capitol, is a disturbing example of how difficult it is for people of good will to dispose of the toxic layers of bigotry that have accumulated over several long centuries.
On Saturday, in a cold, steady rain, voters turned out for the Republican primary. Nearly all of them -- close to 100 percent -- were white. At a dinner here Saturday night, I was reminded ruefully by one of the guests: "It used to be the Democratic Party that was the white man's party in South Carolina. Now it's the GOP. The black people vote next Saturday."
They still honor Benjamin Tillman down here, which is very much like honoring a malignant tumor. A statue of Tillman, who was known as Pitchfork Ben, is on prominent display outside the statehouse.
Tillman served as governor and US senator in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A mortal enemy of black people, he bragged that he and his followers had disenfranchised "as many as we could," and he publicly defended the murder of blacks.