South Carolina governor takes a huge step in healing state's old wounds
My oldest son was born in South Carolina. And though I’m sure he barely remembers living there — we moved to Arizona three years ago right before he turned 3 years old — he’s very adamant that South Carolina is his “home.”
So to hear South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley call for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds today was personal to me. And as great as it is, I can’t help but think, “What took so long?”
Before this goes too far: Don’t attempt to school me on the history of the Confederate flag. I’m from Mississippi — a state (like South Carolina) in which Confederate Memorial Day is observed and state employees are given a holiday. Don’t talk to me about the lives of all races that were lost defending this flag. Don’t make me recall incidents in which that flag was waved proudly by members of the Ku Klux Klan as blacks in this country were taunted and screamed at and hung from trees. Don’t talk to me about heritage.
Because this isn’t about that. This about having such a charged symbol greeting residents and visitors to South Carolina’s capitol. Those of us who live or have lived in South Carolina aren’t new to this debate.
Many people probably didn’t even know the flag was still flown in Columbia, South Carolina, before the horrific massacre in Charleston last week that claimed nine lives. As I drove past the State House grounds during my time there, I would often see visitors — obviously tourists — stop in front of it. Take a photo. Ask aloud: “Is this what I think it is?”
This historic move by Haley is more than 50 years in the making. The flag actually flew on top of the State House Capitol dome — right underneath the American flag and the South Carolina flag — from 1962 until 2000. After a “compromise,” the flag was moved from the dome to behind a monument of Confederate soldiers. The NAACP has consistently boycotted the state. That’s right — not the capitol, not a couple of restaurants or businesses, but the entire state.
Haley’s call for the flag’s removal is just a start, of course. It still needs a vote of two-thirds of House and Senate members before it can actually take effect. But it’s a start. Because at some point, my son will be watching the news or reading a book or looking online and ask me about that flag. And because he’s a smart kid, he’ll put two and two together. And he’ll wonder why the same flag he sees associated with the hatred and hurting of people who look like him flies in the capitol of the place he calls home.
And I won’t know what to say.