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Post image for Was A Southern Sheriff’s Refusal To Lower The Flag To Honor Nelson Mandela Racist?

Was A Southern Sheriff’s Refusal To Lower The Flag To Honor Nelson Mandela Racist?

by Jean Ann Esselink on December 12, 2013

in Discrimination,Jean Ann Esselink,News

As a mark of respect, President Obama ordered that American flags be lowered to half mast until sunset last Monday, to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela. Rick Clark, the sheriff of Pickens County, South Carolina, refused. On Monday, the flag over his office waved proudly at the top of its staff.

Sheriff Clark posted on his Facebook page:

“I usually don’t post political items, but today is different. I received this notification today, ‘As a mark of respect for the memory of Nelson Mandela, the President orders that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff effective immediately until sunset, December 9, 2013,’

Nelson Mandela did great things for his country and was a brave man but he was not an AMERICAN!!! The flag should be lowered at our Embassy in S. Africa, but not here.”

Was it a racist act on the part of the sheriff? Or does he have a point that our nation’s flag should be lowered only to honor an American?

Before you decide, you should know there is a federal regulation that governs how to display the flag. That’s right. There is a law – the very stuff and trade of sheriffs. Here’s what it says:

4 U.S.C. Sec. 7(m):

By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.

A sheriff does laws like McDonald’s does burgers. I think it’s fair to assume that Rick Clark’s first reaction to being given an instruction he objected to, would be to find out what the law says. He’d want to know if he had a legal way out. So Sheriff Clark must have known President Obama was legally exercising a power explicitly given to him. Must have! Because if he didn’t know, if he didn’t bother to determine what the law was before he inserted his own opinion, he should be fired immediately.

Let’s give Sheriff Clark the benefit of the doubt and assume him to be willfully criminal, and not simply incompetent. The sheriff simply refused to follow a law because he doesn’t agree with it. I wonder how he would react to a speeding motorist who told him he knew the speed limit was 55, but he didn’t have to observe it because, in his opinion, it should be 70?

Sheriff Clark told a local television station:

“To show a sign of respect for what Nelson Mandela’s done, I have no problem with lowering it in South Africa, in their country. But in our country, it should be the people, in my opinion, who have sacrificed for our country.”

I do not understand why, in the sheriff’s way of thinking, it is permissible to lower an American flag in South Africa but not in South Carolina. Is the flag less of a national symbol when it’s outside our borders? But beyond logic, the real problem with Sheriff Clark’s statement is that, as sheriff, he doesn’t get to have an opinion. He is charged to lower the flag regardless of whether or not he thinks Nelson Mandela is deserving of the honor.

Convenient, how Sheriff Clark never mentions he knows there is a regulation he is violating; he just posts his opinion as if it has the same weight as an order from the president. My own suspicion is he one of those good ol’ southern boys who doesn’t recognize President Obama’s power to issue a presidential directive, so in his mind, whatever it says doesn’t count.

To me, Sheriff Rick Clark will always be a shining example of racism in a (very thin) disguise. How does he strike you?

Photos Rick Clark’s Facebook

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adauphin04 December 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Don't know if it was thinly veiled racism, incompetence, willful disregard of his president's directive or all of the above. All I do know is that he broke the law and should be punished accordingly. Period.

louiswu49 December 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

The result ends up being the same. He had two choices. Follow orders, or resign. But disobeying a lawful order given by the President of the United States is not an option. His was an act of one without honor and he should therefore be relieved of duty. Period.

Maggie4NoH8 December 12, 2013 at 4:36 pm

It isn't thinly veiled racism at all – its racism on FULL display. I'm sure he'll be a tea-bagger hero too. Gawd, I'm sick of the good ol' (white) boy and angry white man attitudes.

I doubt he'd have a problem lowering the flag if Bush (1 OR 2) issued the order! It was the double dose of blackness in my opinion (Obama/Mandela).

rockymissouri December 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm


masterguard08 December 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm

His opinion doesn't matter. The President ordered them to be a half-mass and it's the law. Follow the law if you're going to enforce it or quit your job.

dauphinjo December 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm

I would classify this as ignorant 'accidental' racism. I doubt the sheriff has the slightest inkling that his actions were racist and by all means I don't excuse what he did but I seriously think he believes his opinion is justified and patriotic. (Don't you just hate how the word 'patriot' has been turned into something hateful by so many). He probably sees this as a protest, his line in the sand against the anti-American president and the definitely non-American Mandela.

Then there is Fox…..op-eds that call Mandela a terrorist or simply point out little things in his personal life to make him 'look bad'. Then the comments from the foxbots are just repulsive, disgusting and soooooooo racist.
Nonetheless he disobeyed an order from the President of the US and should be fired immediately.

DixieMay December 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I totally disagree that he hasn't the slightest inkling that his actions are racist. IMO that was entirely his point. But just in case he truly didn't know I emailed him a copy and paste of the law he broke so he wouldn't make the same "mistake" again.

EarthElfangel December 15, 2013 at 1:41 am

I Believe that he THINKS (VERY broad sense of the word!) that he isn't being the least racist but that is most likely because in his circle racism is the norm. He and his KNOW that a black man is inferior and something crooked had to happen for one to be living in the White House and Mandela was the engine for the removal of the Old South way of life in South Africa so in his infinite cracker wisdom did the thing by his beliefs.

All that doesn't really matter. He put himself above the POTUS and should be removed from office immediately.

louiswu49 December 12, 2013 at 10:40 pm

What if those who sacrificed for this country only followed orders if they happened to feel like it? If he truly felt that strongly about it, the honorable thing to do would have been to resign – a luxury soldiers DO NOT have – but to disregard a lawful order is a serious breach of discipline, and the act of a man without honor. He should summarily be relieved of duty, and be grateful he's not spending a few years in Leavenworth.

Pompey50 December 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Frankly this racist monkey in a uniform should be sacked and charged with whatever federal offence he has committed. He is not fit to wear a badge.

Here in the UK Flags are at half mast all over the country and will remain so until Monday.

I have heard of no one refusing to do this, even though it is left to individual local authority's (except on government buildings).

Tomcatv1 December 12, 2013 at 10:55 pm

Was it racist? You betcha! He couldn't lower the flag for a dead Black African leader because a black President of the United States told him to and he's not taking orders from someone he considers illegitimate.

Parkerm01 December 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Fat as* bubba is a racist as*hole and should be censured by the President!

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