Confederate Flag Debate Intensifies in Wake of Charleston Shooting

Politicians, retailers, and activists are taking part in a push in South Carolina to have the Confederate flag removed from the grounds of the state Capitol. This movement follows the massacre of nine African American people by a 21-year-old white man in the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week.

via Grace Beahm

Wal-Mart, Sears, and Amazon announced today that they will no longer carry Confederate flag merchandise.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also joined the support for removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol groups, switching her view on the subject from when she ran for re-election last year. The Confederate flag, which many view as a symbol of racism and white supremacy, was added to the state Capitol in 1962, in response to Civil Rights efforts in the state.

Removing the flag will require a two-thirds vote by the general assembly. Although their legislative session ends this week, Governor Haley announced that she will be using her authority to call them back into an emergency session to vote on the issue.

“My hope is that by removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward as a state in harmony,” Governor Haley said.

“It’s past time to take down the Confederate flag, and it’s currently imperative that both parties come together and restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and stop all other voter suppression efforts and excessive gerrymandering aimed at suppressing the vote, especially of African Americans, and the vote of Latina/os, young people, and women.” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.

Smeal speaks of recent legislative efforts to make voting in South Carolina more difficult for some groups, including stricter voter identification laws, limits on early voting, and elimination of same-day voter registration. Women and people of color are the most affected by voter ID laws. For example North Carolina has strict identification requirements that require particular forms of government-issued photo IDs. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, however, 25 percent of eligible African American voters, and 16 percent of Latina/o voters do not have such identification. The issue is further compounded for women who have recently changed their last names, or whose names do not reflect that of their birth certificate.

The shooting that sparked a heightened debate about the Confederate flag took place last week in one of the oldest African American churches in South Carolina. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, claims that he went to the church specifically to “shoot Black people,” and that he was intending to start a “race war.” He shot and killed nine African American churchgoers, including its pastor and state Senator Clementa Pinckney (age 41), Cynthia Hurd (age 54), Tywanza Sanders (age 26), Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (age 45), Myra Thompson (age 59), Ethel Lee Lance (age 70), Rev. Daniel Simmons (age 74), Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor (age 49) and Susie Jackson (the eldest at age 87).

In the wake of the Charleston shooting, every flag at the South Carolina Capitol has been flow at half-mast, with the exception of the Confederate flag.

Governor Haley hopes that the flag will be removed from the State Capitol grounds before the Fourth of July, saying “This flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.”

Media Resources: NBC News 6/22/15; CNN 6/23/15; 6/20/15; MSNBC 10/19/13; Ms Magazine Blog 6/22/15;

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