South Carolina history scholar schools Nikki Haley on Confederate Flag's ugly history: It has 'long been tied to white supremacy, racism and racial violence’
Former UN ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday defended a symbol of racism, the Confederate flag, describing it as a symbol of “service, sacrifice and heritage.” And in a December 8 op-ed for the Washington Post, South Carolina-based history professor Adam H. Domby educates her on the Confederate flag’s ugly history.
During an interview on Friday, Haley (a former UN ambassador under President Donald Trump) argued that Dylann Roof — the terrorist who murdered nine people at the Emanuel AME church on June, 17, 2015 — “perverted” the meaning of the Confederate flag. Roof, an avowed white supremacist, posed in photos with a Confederate flag — and after his attack, Haley came out in support of removing it from statehouse grounds.
“Haley declared the Confederate flag was ‘hijacked’ by the racism of a single white supremacist terrorist in 2015, and that before then, ‘people saw it as service, sacrifice and heritage,’” Domby notes. “While perhaps a shrewd statement for a potential presidential run, Haley was not presenting accurate history.”
Domby, who teaches history at Charlestown College in South Carolina, asserts that the Confederate flag had an ugly history long before Roof was even born.
“The flag had long been tied to white supremacy, racism and racial violence,” Domby stresses. “The Confederate flag was already tied to racism in 2000, when the state legislature agreed to move it from the top of the capital to the nearby Confederate monument — where it would remain for the next 15 years. Indeed, the flag had first flown at South Carolina’s State House at least partially in response to federal orders to desegregate. The Confederate flag was a favorite symbol of those resisting the civil rights movement, including, in this case, the South Carolina government.”
Domby cites other examples of the Confederate flag’s history, pointing out that in 1948, the segregationist Dixiecrat Party “flew the Confederate flag as part of an openly racist campaign.”
“When Haley says South Carolina doesn’t have ‘hateful’ people,” Domby observes, “she obscures the long history of racist hatred demonstrated alongside the Confederate banner. Look no further than Charleston in 1875, where armed members of the Carolina Rifle Club of Charleston marched through town behind a Confederate flag in an effort to intimidate black voters as part of a statewide white supremacist campaign that included voter intimidation, ballot box stuffing and terrorism.”
Domby wraps up his op-ed by emphasizing that the Confederate flag cannot be rehabilitated — it was a symbol of racism during the Civil War and is still as repulsive in 2019.
“Only by ignoring the long history of racial discrimination and violence can we pretend racism is just a problem in the hearts of a few and not a persistent, institutional issue,” Domby asserts. “Indeed, racism and white identity politics still play a major role in our political discourse. Pretending racism isn’t a problem may appeal to some white voters, but it’s bad for the country.”