UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, the South Carolina voted 37-3 in favor of removing the flag. Now the state awaits the vote from the House.
On Monday, South Carolina lawmakers began the debate regarding the Confederate flag and its place at the state’s Capitol
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called for the flag’s removal several weeks ago in the wake of the Charleston massacre at the hands of white supremacist Dylann Roof. But this can only happen if a two-thirds majority vote is reached by the House and Senate.
Other leaders and activists have vocalized their support of the flag’s removal, including Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. According to Randolph, the flag only represents “secession.”
“There is no good-looking Confederate flag,” she said.
But Americans remain divided on what the flag physically symbolizes – 72 percent of Blacks believe it represents racism, while only 25 percent of whites feel this way. However, they were not nearly as torn about removing the flag from government properties: more than half of Americans overall support the flag’s removal, as well as half of all white people and 73 percent of Black people.
However, some people remain opposed to the removal of the flag. Pro-Confederate flag robocalls began circulating last Friday in hopes of convincing citizens that taking down the flag would be to “stand with leftist fanatics who want to destroy the South we love.”
The recording, made by a group called the Conservative Response Team, details the group’s anger against those who wish to remove the flag, specifically Gov. Haley: “Don’t think the PC leaders will stop if Gov. (Nikki) Haley gets her way, and the Confederate memorial is taken down and hidden away in a museum … What’s next? This attack on our values is sick and un-American and it has to stop right here and right now in South Carolina.”
The group hopes that these calls will convince citizens to reach out to lawmakers and express their support for the flag. However, Sen. John Courson, who received one of the recorded calls and has already expressed that he will vote against the flag, does not believe the call will convince people to do any such thing.
State Rep. Kirkman Finlay (who has not made public which side of the issue he is on) agrees, insisting the call “is not an example of the grace we have seen since this tragedy took place.”
Meanwhile, Alabama already removed the flag from its Capitol, with Gov. Robert Bentley calling it “the right thing to do.” And several large retailers, including Walmart (one of DiversityInc’s Top 25 Noteworthy Companies) and Amazon, quickly made the decision to stop selling Confederate flags entirely. According to Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon, “We just don’t want to sell products that make anyone feel uncomfortable and we felt like that was the case.” And just like Gov. Bentley, McMillon also called the company’s decision “the right thing to do.”
Haley firmly views this change as necessary and knows people stand against her. “I don’t think this is going to be easy,” she said. “I don’t think that it’s going to be painless, but I do think that it will be respectful, and that it will move swiftly.”