Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Removal of Confederat­e flag long overdue

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Credit South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for doing the right thing Monday, reversing her original opinion and calling for the removal of the Confederat­e flag located next to the statehouse.

The issue should have been a slam-dunk ever since the apparently racially motivated killings of nine African-Americans in a Charleston church last week.

It’s a matter of leadership, fortitude and standing up for what is obviously the right thing to do.

Too bad too many public officials couldn’t open their mouths and find that leadership ability in the past few days.

In an obvious attempt to not alienate white, conservati­ve voters, too many Republican presidenti­al candidates simply ignored the issue or tried to pass it off as a states right issue, rather than be willing to go on the record saying the flag should be removed.

The Confederat­e flag, to many people, remains a symbol of bigotry, hatred and racial violence. Granted, it is part of South Carolina’s and the nation’s heritage, but so is slavery.

In the wake of the Charleston killings, the Confederat­e flag near the South Carolina statehouse should have been removed immediatel­y, out of respect for those who died last week.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recalled how he had the Confederat­e flag removed from Florida’s capital in 2001 during his first term as governor and placed in a museum. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidenti­al candidate in 2012, came out strongly in favor of removing the flag.

Sen. Marco Rubio, however, tried to pass the ball back to South Carolina, wanting to write it off as a states right issue. He could have shown leadership by saying the flag is a symbol that is hurtful, divisive and doesn’t belong by the statehouse, but he didn’t.

Nor did others. Well-known Republican­s like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (a northwest Florida resident) Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul didn’t want to express an opinion on the issue. Somehow, it was difficult for those folks — some of whom want to be in the White House — to say the right thing is to remove a flag that is the symbol of so much that is hurtful.

As for Haley, she acted after days of controvers­y. She acknowledg­ed the flag is an important part of the state’s history, but said “The flag does not represent the future of South Carolina. By removing a symbol that divides us, we can move forward in harmony.”

It will take a two-thirds majority of the South Carolina Legislatur­e to remove the flag from the statehouse grounds, but analysts believe that will happen.

Haley noted that if people want to put the flag on their own property, that would be respected. But attitudes toward the Confederat­e flag have obviously changed. Just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas was within its right to reject a Confederat­e license plate.

For a state to sanction the display of the flag that is such a negative, divisive symbol to so many people is just plain wrong and indefensib­le. Particular­ly at a time when the wound from last week’s killings is so raw.

Too bad not enough public officials were willing to clearly say that.

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