When S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley called for legislators to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State House this week, it was a monumental change.
For many in this area, it’s hard to believe that it has been more than 15 years since the Confederate flag was first moved from the State House’s Capitol dome, where it had flown since the early 1960s.
Fifteen long years.
Back in 2000, legislators agreed to fly the flag next to a monument to Confederate soldiers located directly in front of the State House.
While some people applauded the fact that the Confederate flag was at least removed from the dome, it was still prominently displayed at the State House.
Simply the flag’s presence on the grounds of the State Capitol was extremely offensive to many across the Palmetto State.
And those opposed to the flag did not back down.
In fact, for more than 15 years, the NAACP has supported a tourist boycott of South Carolina due to the presence of the Confederate flag at the State House.
Despite what some politicians may say, that boycott hurt South Carolina.
The Post and Courier reported in 2013 that the moratorium had cost the state the chance to host several major events that would have brought millions of dollars into South Carolina, including NCAA Tournament basketball games frequently held in cities such as Charlotte and Raleigh.
“In 2004, an effort to bring a bowl game called the ‘Palmetto Bowl’ to Charleston did not pass NCAA muster,” the newspaper reported. “In 2009, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced it would bring its baseball tournament to Myrtle Beach for three years; the ACC changed its mind after learning the NAACP did not support the move.”
It got to the point that some of the top leaders in the state began speaking out.
Even South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier didn’t back down when asked about the Confederate battle flag.
“I realize I’m not supposed to get into the political arena as a football coach,” Spurrier said in 2007. “But if anybody were to ask me about that damn Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it.”
While the issue of the Confederate flag has frequently been discussed, no action has been taken since 2000.
That was until Haley’s bold announcement this week.
The terrible massacre at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church has clearly changed the state of South Carolina forever.
“The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag,” Haley announced during her press conference on Monday. “In no way does he reflect the people in our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it.”
However, Haley insisted that “the time has come” to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.
“We do not need to declare a winner and a loser,” she said. “This is a moment in which we can say that the flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.”
Of course, as soon as Haley’s press conference was over, social media exploded.
While many applauded Haley’s announcement, her critics were harsh, calling for her impeachment.
“Liberals always blame the wrong things,” one woman wrote about Haley, who happens to be one of the most prominent conservative, Republican governors in the South. “The flag had nothing to do with what happened. They blame guns and now a flag. What about the Confederate Monuments? Will they take them down, too?”
And many of the comments turned extremely racist. The following is an example of a very mild post:
“Haley is only doing this to pacify the political correctness bunch,” one man wrote. “Playing politics. She’s a smart person but dumbing down on the flag’s history to appease the blacks.”
It’s been one week since nine innocent people, who were simply attending a Bible study class in the historic black church, were killed by 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof.
Emotions are still running high, but residents of the Palmetto State need to truly face the horror of what happened last week.
The thought of a young man, so filled with hate, driving from his home near Columbia, S.C., to specifically target one of the oldest, most storied black congregations in the South is truly unfathomable to most people.
“It’s hard for people, particularly in the South, to imagine somebody could go into a church, stay for Bible study, talk to people for an hour, look them in the eye, and then stand up and start shooting,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a S.C. Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful, told The New York Times last week. “Even the crazy people, they don’t go into church.”
U.S. Congressman James Clyburn, a long-time Democratic leader from South Carolina, immediately flew to Charleston last Thursday after learning of the shootings.
“Emanuel A.M.E. Church is the rock upon which the A.M.E. Church throughout the South is built,” Clyburn told the Times. “That church has more historic significance to Charleston than any other church in this community.”
As the result of the terrible action by this one man, this tragedy is not only changing the South, but the entire country.
Some Mississippi Republicans are calling for the Confederate emblem to be removed from its state flag.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that in Tennessee, both Democrats and Republicans called for the removal of a bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from outside the Senate’s chambers.
And, to the shock of so many across the country, even Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, announced this week that it is removing items from its store featuring the Confederate flag.
Folks, if Walmart gets it, that’s speaking volumes.