Nikki Haley is to Blame for Violence Across the Country
by Temerity Forthright
In July 2015, Nikki Haley (then the South Carolina Governor) signed legislation to remove the Confederate flag from the state capitol grounds after the state House of Representatives voted 94-20 to remove what was referred to as the “Confederate battle flag.”
Just weeks before, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people and wounded three others in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. During his 2016 trial, Roof plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. In April 2017, he was sentenced to nine life terms in prison.
Those violent, senseless murders ignited a firestorm after photos emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate flag. There were immediate calls to remove the Confederate flag from public places, starting in South Carolina.
The Confederate flag had flown at the Capitol Building in Columbia, South Carolina, since 1962. But on July 10, 2015, three weeks after the Roof murders, the Confederate flag was removed from the Capitol grounds and folded in a respectful ceremony amid cheers and jeers from the assembled crowd.
Governor Nikki Haley previously supported the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern heritage that honored her state’s ancestors. But after the church murders, Haley quickly retreated from her previous position.
Historically, the Confederate flag has been a symbol of pride and heritage for southerners. In a 2015 CNN poll, 57 percent of Americans surveyed viewed the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride rather than racism.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina praised the flag’s removal. Graham said, “After the horrific tragedy in Charleston, our state could have gone down one of two paths, division or reconciliation. I am thankful we chose the path of reconciliation.”
Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley Jr. echoed the feelings of some people when he said that the Confederate flag had been an insult to many people, and its removal would help heal those wounds. He said, “Our state’s response to a horrific act of racial hatred has been a clear and decisive act of graceful unity, respect and healing for all of our citizens.”
Since the 2015 removal of the flag from the South Carolina State Capitol Building, the Confederate flag has been removed from many state, county, and municipal buildings. Has its removal helped heal those wounds?
In addition to the flag, cities started removing statues and monuments of Confederate heroes, not just in the South, but across the country.
New Orleans removed four Confederate monuments. San Diego officials removed a plaque honoring Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. A monument to Confederate soldiers that stood for 113 years in Gainesville, Florida, was removed from in front of the county’s administration building.
This week Baltimore removed four Confederate monuments in the dead of night after the city council voted unanimously to do so. One of the statues honored Confederate women.
But that wasn’t enough for some people. Earlier this week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called for the removal of the statue of Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert B. Taney from the Annapolis State House grounds. Justice Taney, who was born in Maryland, was the chief author of the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which ruled that blacks, slave or free, could not be American citizens. (A statue of Taney was one of the four monuments removed from Baltimore this week.) And sure enough, in the wee hours of Friday morning, the Taney statue in Annapolis was removed.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, both New York Democrats, said that Lee Barracks at West Point Military Academy should be renamed. Robert E. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829 and served as its Superintendent from 1852-1855.
School districts around the country are even looking at changing schools named for Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee.
Riots from New York City to Seattle have erupted since a Charlottesville woman was struck and killed by a car driven by an Ohio man after opposition protest marches turned violent last weekend. The purpose of the rally was to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in the central Virginia city.
After cancelling a press conference to announce the future of the Robert E. Lee statue, Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer simply issued a statement Friday afternoon. Signer called for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to convene a special session of the General Assembly to remove the Robert E. Lee statue.
But protesters have already taken matters into their own hands. Mobs have begun tearing down monuments and statues. On Monday, protestors pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier that had stood in front of the Durham, North Carolina, courthouse since 1924. Other statues and monuments around the country have been vandalized.
Black Lives Matter leaders, who often foment and endorse violence, called for a ban on all Confederate symbols in America as white nationalist groups continued to spread their racist and bigoted ideology, all of which perpetuates the violence.
The rhetoric from both sides drowns out the Constitution. Although some Americans disagree with other people’s message, at what point do you stop free speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble? Unite the Right was protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. They had a permit for their rally, but the counter-protesters did not.
How many statues, flags, and markers from American’s past can be removed before people are satisfied that enough of our history has been erased? How are people expected to react when their identity, heritage, and history are threatened? And where does it end?
Just as President Trump predicted, there are now calls for the removal of statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson because they were slave owners. Chicago Liberation Christian Center’s Bishop James E. Dukes called for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to remove a statue of President George Washington and rename Chicago’s Washington Park.
Georgia’s Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has called for the removal the images of three Confederate leaders carved into Stone Mountain. What’s next – Mount Rushmore?
Do you remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in China? Of course you do, but the Chinese people don’t. The Communist government kept all images, news reports, and videos away from the Chinese people. The Tiananmen Square protests are not part of Chinese history because everything related to it was eliminated.
Is that what the Nikki Haleys of America want? Remove all images, names, statues, and monuments of the Confederacy from American history? At what point will all memory of the Civil War be eliminated? How many other people and events in American history should be erased?
Should we get rid of ideas you don’t agree with? Ban groups you don’t like? Remove symbols you deem offensive?
Who gets to decide that? What happens when your heritage, culture, or history starts being wiped out?
Nikki Haley started us down this path to civil discord and violence two years ago when, with one stroke of her pen, she had one Confederate flag removed from the South Carolina state capitol. Where does it end?