This is just personal spit balling, but I think I can understand why they feel this way. Southerners could see the flag as representing their communities: their customs, heritage, food, shared historical experiences, etc. In theory they could divorce this sense of community from the flag's history of racial prejudice. So they honestly may believe that they themselves are not racist, their community is not racist (anymore at least), and that the flag merely stands as a symbol of their community bond. Of course it's beyond naive to separate the flag's despicable racial past from it's use in modern times, but perhaps that's just the culture in South Carolina. I wouldn't know, I've never been.