On Monday, it’s possible that South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley thought to herself, “Hmm. I wonder if we’ve been flying that pernicious symbol of racist hatred a touch, or even 150 years, too long?”
Or else she just realized that keeping it up would be political suicide. Either way, Haley did finally call for the Confederate flag’s removal from Capitol grounds, and others, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, have broadcasted their support.
It’s worth noting—and was noted by many—that the rhetoric of Haley’s statement was utterly noncommittal, not to mention submissive to constituents who would prefer to keep the Confederate flag atop its pole.
“For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble,” Haley began. “For many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol.” Of course, the meaningful intersections between “traditions that are noble” and “symbols that are deeply offensive” went unmentioned, as did the underlying issue of race and racism—a dodge that feels particularly questionable in light of last week’s brutal shooting in Charleston. Still, this is a slight move in the right direction, although the road to the flag’s removal—if it is removed—will be long and fraught with opposition. From TIME:
A state law passed in 2000 requires a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses to move the flag off the Capitol grounds. A change could be added to the state’s budget bill in order to prevent any change from going into the next legislative session.
In the midst of this debate, many are debating other relics of the Confederacy. Wal-Mart is now pulling Confederate memorabilia from its stores, and Greg Fenves, President of the University of Texas at Austin, met this afternoon with students arguing for the removal of a campus statue of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. He has so far promised nothing, but university spokesperson Gary Susswein assures us that “President Fenves is taking the issue very seriously.”
In the meantime, Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro has shown his solidarity to the cause by signing a petition, along with 1,000 students, alumni, and supporters, asking that the statue be removed. “Statues are meant to memorialize and glorify whomever the subject is and project ideals and values,” explained Rohit Mandalapu, author of the petition and student body vice president. “Davis’s name is synonymous with the Confederacy and slavery.”
America’s lurid history of racism is entrenched and enduring—but changing the landscape will gradually change the context, we can hope.
Top Image via Getty. Embedded Screengrab via Twitter.