Nikki Haley's Confederate Flag RevisionismRoundup
tags: Republican Party, South Carolina, Confederate flag, Nikki Haley
Kevin M. Levin is a historian and educator based in Boston and is the author of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth.
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is running for president.
For many Americans, the defining moment of her time as governor was her support of removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol, following the murder of nine Black churchgoers in Charleston by Dylann Roof in 2015.
Haley has a complex relationship with the controversy surrounding the flag—one that she likely would rather put behind her given former president Trump’s embrace of white nationalists and praise of Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee.
In fact, in a video announcing her presidential run, Haley makes no mention of her role in lowering the flag back in the summer of 2015. No doubt, she hopes not to alienate the Trump base and other constituencies who continue to rally around Confederate memory.
This is going to be difficult. The day after her announcement video surfaced of Haley meeting with the Sons of Confederate Veterans back in 2010.
When asked whether states have a right to secede, Haley responds in the affirmative though she also suggests that such a drastic decision will not be necessary.
Here she tries desperately to steer clear of the Confederate flag controversy while at the same time declaring that it is a symbol of “heritage” and not a symbol of racism.
There is little that is surprising here. If anything, it reflects the continued influence of groups like the SCV even as recently as 2010.
At the same time it represents a gross distortion of the flag controversy in South Carolina. This historical revisionism played out even more clearly following the Charleston murders following the publication of photographs showing Roof waving a Confederate flag.
Haley called for the removal of the flag only after a number of high-profile Republicans came out in favor of removal. My issue with Haley is not that she hesitated over this issue. She did what most politicians do when it comes to controversial public questions like this one.
What I find egregious is her continued stance that somehow Dylann Roof had co-opted a symbol and turned it into something it wasn’t.