As the country continues to reel from the horrific massacre at Charleston's Emanuel A.M.E. church, flags nationwide are flying at half-staff in a traditional show of respect for the nine people who were shot and killed. Except for one unbelievable exception: the Confederate banner above the South Carolina statehouse, just about 100 miles from the scene of the crime. As the Washington Post reports, the Capitol's other two flags, which represent the state and the U.S., are both at half-staff — leaving only the rebel battle flag, a symbol of the slave-owning South — flying high. The seemingly absurd reason is that according to South Carolina law, the Confederate flag cannot be removed without a two-thirds vote from the state's General Assembly — a law that stems from that state's long fight to keep the banner aloft. Yesterday, a chorus of voices began calling for the flag to come down. "Roof’s crime cannot be divorced from the ideology of white supremacy, which long animated his state, nor from its potent symbol — the Confederate flag," journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote yesterday for The Atlantic, in reference to Dylann Storm Roof, who has been charged with nine counts of murder in the attack. Indeed, the getaway car the alleged killer used was decked out with a Confederate flag license plate. "Every time I look at it and see it fly, it hurts me," 56-year-old Benjamin White told Mashable. "They lift it high on the truck, on the Capitol building. We've got to get the flag down. We're fighting for that flag to come down." Social media is, of course, afire on the issue.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, has long been a proponent for keeping the flag. "What I can tell you is over the last three and a half years, I spent a lot of my days on the phones with CEOs and recruiting jobs to this state. I can honestly say I have not had one conversation with a single CEO about the Confederate flag," she said during a debate in 2014. In 2000, after a long and contentious debate, the South Carolina State Senate voted to remove the flag from the Capitol dome but to display it less prominently on the statehouse grounds. The South Carolina Heritage Act prohibits removing or moving the flag without a new act from the legislature.
So, it seems that today, after Dylan Roof has appeared before a court to be charged with a racially motivated massacre, that symbol — the one he chose to decorate his car with — will still be flying high.