If you’ve been following the news coverage of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting, you might have seen the remarks from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley. During her remarks, Haley was visibly and audibly emotional, taking a couple of seconds to control the tears that were approaching as she said, “We woke up today and the heart and soul of South Carolina was broken,” as the community learned of the murders that happened at the historic Emanuel AME Church.
While some applauded Haley for her sensitivity, others swiftly questioned or completely disregarded her as inauthentic. Several Twitter users recalled Haley’s defense of South Carolina’s decision to fly the Confederate Flag at the statehouse.
Last October, when her challenger called for the removal of the flag, Haley said, rather contradictorily, that though the Confederate Flag was a sensitive issue, she felt it was a problem of the past. Particularly because CEOs who were recruiting jobs in the state, had not mentioned it.
“What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag.”
She did acknowledge the that state had taken a hit in the media for their decision to fly the flag at the highest office in the state. Many of you may remember sisters Venus and Serena Williams boycotting the state’s Indian Wells tournament for 9 years because they wouldn’t remove the symbol of oppression. But Haley, in her breadth of experience living as a member of the community that flag targets, believed the community had moved past it.
“But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor,” Haley said. “When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.”
So, today when Haley cried, her tears weren’t well received.
When I was just ten years old, with my family on our way back to Indianapolis from Fort Wayne, Indiana, a car heavily decorated with the confederate flags, swastikas and even the infamous triple K pulled up alongside ours. The car made sure they kept the pace with ours as they shook the flag and pointed at jeered in the direction of my parents, who kept their faces straight ahead on the road. They followed us for may 2-3 minutes before they sped up, leaving our spirits deflated and my ten-year-old self confused, still scared and deeply saddened by the unnecessary hate I’d just witnessed.
Indianapolis is clearly a midwestern city, miles away from the deep south; still, the very real legacy of hate associated with that Flag had crossed the Mason Dixon to terrorize me and my family for a few seemingly long-lasting minutes.
Having had that experience at such a young age, there was no argument that could convince me the Confederate Flag doesn’t represent hate.
But you don’t need to have been traumatized by it to recognize that.
The flag flew in the South when those collection of states were attempting to secede from the Union so they could maintain the institution of slavery. I don’t have to tell you that the Civil War was fought to maintain an economy that was built on the philosophy that Black lives weren’t fully human and could be controlled, beaten, abused and enslaved by Whites.
That’s alarmingly racist.
And the fact that the flag is allowed to fly at the statehouse is a slap in the face to every Black person in the state, in this country and around the world. Hell, it’s a slap in the face to any and every person who has an interest in justice and human rights.
I find it shocking that Haley can’t make that connection.
Perhaps as a White woman she can’t relate to the racism. But certainly she knows that in no other nation do the losers of a war get to continue to fly their flag? Does Germany still rationalize the need to fly a swastika at governmental buildings as a source of Nazi pride? No. If anything, that part of their history is regarded with shame by most people, as the South should regard slavery and the racism that birthed it.
Unfortunately, racism is still tolerated and even accepted throughout this country. It’s the reason why the flag still flies. And it’s also the reason a 21-year-old young man, born well after the end of slavery and even the “end” of the Jim Crow era, would still harbor so much hate in his heart toward Black people, that he sat with them for an hour, unassumingly in church, before massacring nine people.