At the South Carolina state capitol building, the U.S. and South Carolina flags on the mast atop the dome have been lowered to half staff following the murder of nine worshipers at the Emanuel AME church. But in front of the building, at a Civil War memorial, the Confederate flag continues to fly high.
Governor Nikki Haley ordered flags to be lowered in honor of the victims, so why is the Confederate flag still at full staff? The Washington Post reports that the governor has no control over that flag. Any decisions involving it must be made by the state legislature.
NBC News says that the flag is protected under the South Carolina Heritage Act, and has been the subject of intense debate over the years. According to a reporter with NBC affiliate WIS, the flag, unlike the ones that fly above the capitol dome, is not connected to a pulley, and therefore it cannot be flown at half staff. It either has to fly high, or be taken down entirely. Apparently, taking the flag down entirely is just to much for current members of the legislature to consider. (Although the Huffington Post reports that members of that body removed Gadsden flags, the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” flag, from their desks in respect for state Senator Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine dead. It’s interesting that they didn’t respect him enough while he was alive to not have them there in the first place.)
In the wake of the shooting of nine black worshipers at the hands of a man who has admitted to police that he killed them because they were black, the debate over the flag is likely to flare again. NBC reports that an online poll they conducted found that 81 percent of black people surveyed say that the flag is a symbol of racism. The Washington Post says that Dylann Roof, the accused killer, drove a car with a Confederate flag license plate.
Governor Haley cried when she spoke about “the heart and soul of South Carolina” being broken by this bloodshed, but there are no reports that she attempted to convince the leaders in the legislature that removing the flag, at least temporarily, might be a good idea. As an Indian-American, you might think she would be sensitive to matters of race, but when it comes to the Confederate flag, she seems afraid to take on the powers that be. Or, maybe she’s just another Republican with her head in the sand. The Huffington Post reports that Haley is on record as saying that South Carolina’s racial problems were “fixed” because she was elected governor, and an African-American, Tim Scott, was appointed to be a U.S. senator, following the resignation of Jim DeMint.
In the video below, via CBS News, Haley talks about the potential for the Confederate flag debate to be renewed following the Charleston shooting.