Nikki Haley gets the history of the Confederate flag very wrongRoundup
tags: Confederacy, Confederate flag, Nikki Haley, Lost Cause
Adam H. Domby is an assistant professor of history at the College of Charleston and the author of “The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory.”
Much of the crowd cheered as state troopers lowered the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House’s grounds in 2015. In response to the murder of nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) had ordered its permanent removal. At the time, it seemed that perhaps Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, recognized that the symbol had long divided South Carolinians due to the racist associations the flag held.
So much for that. On Friday, 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.” While perhaps a shrewd statement for a potential presidential run, Haley was not presenting accurate history.
Indeed, the flag had long been tied to white supremacy, racism and racial violence. 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.
It was no accident that in 1948, the pro-segregation Dixiecrat party flew the Confederate flag as part of an openly racist campaign. With a platform that declared “We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race,” the party opposed “the elimination of segregation,” “social equality” or “the repeal of miscegenation statutes.” At the Dixiecrats’ 1948 convention, supporters of Strom Thurmond — then governor of South Carolina — held up Confederate flags and pictures of Robert E. Lee.