Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Do (Ever-Higher) Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Posted in African Americans, Leadership, Memory by Andy Hall on September 26, 2011

Some folks may recall the case last year in South Carolina where Annie Chambers Caddell moved into a historically African American neighborhood, and put a Confederate flag on the front of her house. Her neighborhood’s origins go back to the close of the Civil War, when the area was settled by several former members of the 1st USCT, who’d been stationed there at the end of their military service. Caddell, who is white, argued she was honoring her Confederate ancestors; her neighbors, not surprisingly, see the flag as a symbol of something else entirely.

Inevitably there were protests against Caddell, and counter-protests in response (above). It got worse; someone reportedly threw a rock through Caddell’s front window. There has been inflammatory, over-the-top rhetoric on both sides. Not surprisingly, both sides have chosen to escalate the dispute.

Earlier this year, two solid 8-foot high wooden fences were built on either side of Annie Chambers Caddell’s modest brick house to shield the Southern banner from view.

Late this summer, Caddell raised a flagpole higher than the fences to display the flag. Then a similar pole with an American flag was placed across the fence in the yard of neighbor Patterson James, who is black. . . .

“I’m here to stay. I didn’t back down and because I didn’t cower the neighbors say I’m the lady who loves her flag and loves her heritage,” said the 51-year old Caddell who moved into the historically black Brownsville neighborhood in the summer of 2010. Her ancestors fought for the Confederacy.

Last October, about 70 people marched in the street and sang civil rights songs to protest the flag, while about 30 others stood in Caddell’s yard waving the Confederate flag.

Opponents of the flag earlier gathered 200 names on a protest petition and took their case to a town council meeting where Caddell tearfully testified that she’s not a racist. Local officials have said she has the right to fly the flag, while her neighbors have the right to protest. And build fences.

“Things seemed to quiet down and then the fences started,” Caddell said. “I didn’t know anything about it until they were putting down the postholes and threw it together in less than a day.”

Aaron Brown, the town councilman whose district includes Brownsville, said neighbors raised money for the fences.

“The community met and talked about the situation,” he said. “Somebody suggested that what we should do is just go ahead and put the fences up and that way somebody would have to stand directly in front of the house to see the flag and that would mediate the flag’s influence.”

Caddell isn’t bothered by the fences and said they even seem to draw more attention to her house.

“People driving by here because of the privacy fences, they tend to slow down,” she said. “If the objective was to block my house from view, they didn’t succeed very well.”

You can see where this is going; by this time next year, one side or the other will have put up a big-ass flag.

More seriously, this is just headache-inducing. The only people benefiting from this rancorous business are flagpole installers and the local lumber yard.

I don’t know what the answer here is. Caddell has a right to display her flag; her neighbors have a right to make their objection to it clear. But neither benefits from continually upping the ante, nor does it help to bring in outside groups and activists to use this case to fight a larger proxy battle for historical memory, as recently happened in Lexington. That only serves to harden the resolve of all concerned, by raising the purported stakes beyond what they actually are. I hope Caddell and her neighbors eventually come to some sort of resolution in this business. But that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon, so long as all parties insist on following the tired script of action and reaction, and insist on having others fight their rhetorical battles instead of talking to each other like responsible grown-ups.

_________
Image (Original Caption): Brownsville Community resident Tim Hudson (right) tells H.K. Edgerton of Ridgeville he looks “ridiculous” in his Confederate uniform as he stands with outside the home of Annie Chambers Caddell Saturday, October 16, 2010. Brownsville community members marched past Caddell’s home to protest her flying of the confederate flag outside her home in the predominantly black neighborhood. Hudson was not a marcher in the protest group. Photo by Alan Hawes, postandcourier.com.

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9 Responses

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  1. Rob Baker said, on September 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I can’t wait until I see H.K. in a few weeks. Rumor has it he is coming to Ft. Sanders.

  2. focusoninfinity said, on September 26, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I live in North Carolina with seven Confederate forebears. I’m told our property owners association bans the CSA flags display? But that is not specifically stated in the covenants. If I bought with such ban specifically stated is one thing; but a post purchase, un-written new rule is another. I’d dislike such form of unwritten new rule even if it mandated the CSA flag must be on display by all.

    I display the US flag most days. Displaying the CSA flag one day of the year, such as Confederate Memorial Day would satisfy me. I agree with Sandburg about the Civil War, War Between the States, and War of the Rebellion (it was all of those); it was a war over the prevailing of one of two words. The Unites States of America ARE; vs. the United States of America IS.

    We are still both; but the decision written in both side’s blood is: “IS” prevails.

  3. Foxessa said, on September 27, 2011 at 11:56 am

    That woman is not a good neighbor and drag on the community. She doesn’t want to be or intend to be a part of the community that has established itself in this neighborhood. She came to spit on them.

    • Andy Hall said, on September 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

      I saw on another board, one of Ms. Caddell’s supporters, saying (paraphrase), “why would she quit now, she should be in this to win.”

      My question would be, “win what?”

      It’s not hard to imagine what the neighbors might consider a “win.” But what about Caddell? What is there for her to “win” at this point? The right to fly her flag? She’s had that all along; even her detractors acknowledge that. “Win” the respect and friendship of her neighbors? Doubtful. Everyone involved has been so determined to “win,” they’ve all lost something at this point.

      • Foxessa said, on September 28, 2011 at 8:02 pm

        Yeah. She’s spitting and laughing. She loves hurting this community.

        What does that make her?

        Love, C.

  4. corkingiron said, on September 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Judging from the photographs you link to – there seemed to be a great deal of discussion between the two sides about what the flag symbolizes. That’s not entirely a bad thing, is it?

    • Andy Hall said, on September 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      Not a bad thing at all. That would be a very good thing, in fact.

      But I’m very dubious that that’s what’s actually happening here. Both sides, it seems, are talking at or past each other, and there’s little, if any, real dialogue going on, and not a lot of respect for others’ ability to disagree.

      I don’t know anything about the neighbors, or how they tried to address this event, apart from what’s in the media. The counter-protest — the guys with the Confederate flags — was organized by the South Carolina League of the South, which does not (shall we say) have a track record of reaching out to groups like the NAACP or even acknowledging that other groups and communities have valid reasons for viewing history through a very different lens. Check out this video (or just the quotes from it) if you’re not trying to keep food down. Beneath the bluster about defending Southron culture and secular political ideas about secession, nullification and isolationism, there’s a strong undercurrent of Christianist white identity.

      Or take Ms. Caddell’s own dismissal of the feelings of her neighbors:

      What happened in the past should be staying in the past. . . . what happened forty years ago, ten years ago, is over. It’s over. Why are we beating a dead horse into the ground? It’s done.

      So the segregationist, Jim Crow-era symbolism or message associated with that flag from forty years ago is “over” and “done,” and should be put aside, while her own perspective of the flag as a symbol from 150 years ago remains valid? Huh?

      I don’t see any real communication going on there. Everyone is playing by the standard script, and the longer it goes on, the less likely anyone will be to reach any sort of agreement.

  5. corkingiron said, on September 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Good points. I’ll pass on the video, thanks anyway. My wrists already hurt from the slapping they’ve received….

  6. focusoninfinity said, on September 28, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Her intent may be to “split” the neighborhood, but her effect is to unite it; against her. And against her, and her out-of-neighborhood adherents.

    The neighborhood sounds more united than before her.


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