In the wake of the deadly and racially charged Emanuel AME church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, many have been vocal about the removal of the red, blue and white symbol of slavery still flying high in the State’s Capitol.
And the dissent to the Confederate flag flying from the State Capitol building isn’t exclusive to those directly linked to the historic African American church — on Saturday, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney became one of the few in his party to call for the removal of the hurtful symbol to honor the nine black victims that perished in the massacre.
In a tweet, Romney called the flag a symbol of racial hatred.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 20, 2015
He’s not alone. South Carolina State Rep. Doug Brannon also vowed to do his part by introducing a bill to remove the flag from the State House.
“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man. Sen. Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m gonna introduce the bill [in December] for that reason,” Brannon told MSNBC.
Romney and Brannon are members of a small Republican subset that understand how the flag validates the racists mindset embodied by those who support it — the same mindset possibly adopted by accused gunman Dylann Roof, who told a survivor of the shooting that he did it because Black people were taking over America’s land. The 21-year-old, whose Facebook photos prominently show his support for the Confederacy and for apartheid-era South Africa and White-ruled Rhodesia, reportedly told friends of his racially charged sentiments.
Sadly, that’s not enough to garner support from other visible Republicans, even those running for president.
From Mother Jones:
Yet when Jeb Bush addressed an audience of evangelicals on Friday morning, he became the latest Republican presidential candidate to say he had no idea whether racism motivated this horrific attack.
“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush told the crowd gathered for the annual Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, DC. He called the crime an “evil act of aggression” and said that “this has had a big impact on me.” But he didn’t refer to the racial motivations of the 21-year-old Roof.
Other Republican presidential hopefuls have downplayed or sidestepped the racial aspects of the massacre in Charleston on Wednesday. Asked about his state’s continued use of the Confederate flag, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina explained that “this is part of who we are.” He explained that though some people regard the flag as a racist symbol, “the problems we have in South Carolina and through the world are not because of movies or symbols—it’s because it’s what’s in people’s hearts.”
As of Saturday, the flag is still flying full-mast over the South Carolina State House in Columbia. If you want to make a change, you can check out this MoveOn.org petition to remove all Confederate flags from government places.