“It’s Time:” SC Governor Nikki Haley Calls for Removal of Confederate flag from Capitol Grounds

Today, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), flanked by leaders from both parties including U.S. Senator and Republican presidential candidate Lindsay Graham and Democrat Congressman James Clyburn, held a press conference to formally announce her support to have the Confederate flag removed from the State Capitol grounds. The pressure to remove the flag, of course, comes following the murder of nine black parishioners in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church.

It was a politically savvy speech, in which she maintained her conservative creds by acknowledging those she knew wanted the flag to remain without being (completely) insensitive those who wanted it gone.

She spoke about “moving forward” and acknowledged that “on matters of race, South Carolina has a tough history.” [That’s an understatement.] She also sought to distinguish between South Carolinians who revered the flag’s heritage from the likes of Dylann Roof, whose use of the flag was “sick and twisted.” [Translation:  There are good and bad flaggers.] And, while she supported the private display of the Confederate flag, she noted that “The State House is different.”  Yes, it is.

Then she got to the business at hand.  “With no ill will,” she said, “it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds.” The room erupted with applause. She went further and declared that she will use her authority as governor to return the South Carolina state legislature to session to take action to remove the flag if it has not done so by the close of the legislative session that ends this week. While she offered her respect to those who still revered the flag, she was quick to return the focus to those who lost their lives in Charleston on June 17, 2015. “We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer,” and acknowledged that the fact that the flag “causes so much pain” was reason enough to take it down.

Finally.

South Carolina State Capitol. Credit: Charleston Post and Courier
South Carolina State Capitol. Credit: Charleston Post and Courier

This is a swift turnaround from just a few days before.  Then, Haley expressed no interest in “policy discussions,” saying instead that her job was “to heal the people of this state.” She also maintained that the flag, an emblem of white supremacy and violence, posed no problems or even discussions with CEOs planning to set up shop in South Carolina.

But she could not ignore the flag’s association with this latest act of racial violence, especially as images of 21 year-old Dylann Roof, who perpetrated this crime of terror and violence, circulated.  Neither could she refute the recent protest on Capitol grounds, the #TakeItDown movement, and the moveon.org petition, which gathered more than a half million signatures calling for the flag’s removal.  Even her fellow Republican Mitt Romney tweeted to take it down. [Note: If Haley wants to remain in contention as a Republican running mate in 2016, she needed to do this.]

One hopes, however, that the Governor finally realized that to truly heal the people of South Carolina, she had to consider ALL of the people–and not just those who still cling to a relic of the past that should have long ago been relegated to a museum.

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Why South Carolina must remove the Confederate Battle Flag from Capitol Grounds

Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.
Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Photo credit: Post and Courier.

The terror and murder of innocents in Charleston’s Emanuel AME church a few days ago has rightfully sparked a discussion of our country’s problem with race–especially the fact that on a daily basis, black people are targets of white hatred.  And, in the case of 21 year-old Dylann Roof, a white racist from Eastover, South Carolina, his hatred led him to plot and murder nine individuals gathered for prayer in their own church.  They were:

Cynthia Hurd, 54
Susie Johnson, 87
Ethel Lance, 70
Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., 74
Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 49
Myra Thompson, 49

Say their names.  This is a constant refrain, because this story isn’t just about the murderer, it’s as much about those who were killed and the devastation that their families and community are left to deal with.

Enough of this.
Enough of this.

It is also time that South Carolina, in particular, remove one of the most divisive symbols on its Capitol grounds–the Confederate battle flag.  It’s the same flag that Dylann Roof sported on the front plate of his car and one, among other white supremacist flags, that he swore allegiance to.

Governor Nikki Haley feigns surprise at how someone could enter a place of worship to kill people, while also suggesting that this flag is a-okay with business CEOs.

First, Gov. Haley needs to get her head out of the sand. This wasn’t simply an attack on people of faith.  It was an act of racial terror on a specific church.  Anyone with a bare bones understanding of the state’s history, which should include Haley, knows exactly why Roof targeted Emanuel AME.

Second, whether or not CEOs have a problem with the Confederate battle flag on capitol grounds is beside the point. The South Carolina State House is the people’s house.  It doesn’t belong to the CEO of Volvo or any other business considering locating a factory in South Carolina. It belongs to all of South Carolina’s citizens, not just the ones who are clinging to a relic of white supremacy.

The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney
The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney

So that flag, the one that inspires racial hatred and murder and hopes of a race war, has no place on the grounds of state government. Shamefully, it flew even as The Honorable Senator Clementa Pinckney, murdered in the church he pastored, was being eulogized inside the senate chamber where he once served.

It insults his service to South Carolina. It insults all those who were murdered as they worshipped. It insults black and white citizens of the state alike, and it must come down.

It’s a small gesture and not a salve for all that is wrong, but it might begin a process of racial healing that is much needed right now.

Dear Jon: Let’s Talk “The South” when you’re in Charlotte

If you’re breathing, there’s a good chance you know that Charlotte, North Carolina, is hosting the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  This is an exciting time for the Queen City as we play host to conventioneers, politicians, and journalists.  There will also be a lot of kvetching over traffic and street closures, but I for one am very thrilled to see that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart will be setting up shop at Imaginon, home to the city’s Children’s Theatre and Library.

In fact, I’d really like to be on the show to discuss the media and its southern stereotypes.  I’ve written about it before here on Pop South (See posts on DNC Announcement and the one on Martin Bashir over at MSNBC), and I’m certainly scouting out other journalistic blunders on this score, but right now I am waging a campaign to be a guest on the Daily Show to talk about the subject.  And why not?  The Daily Show has numerous reports that have been tagged “the South.”  The earliest one, on Strom Thurmond, dates to 1999.  And the most recent?  On Chick fil A, of course.  I suppose the region is a gift that keeps on giving, as seen in the report on “Tarred Heels” (below), which led Jon Stewart to conclude that North Carolina is the Democrat’s “South Carolina.”  Ouch!

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Tarred Heels
www.thedailyshow.com
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Tarred Heels (watch video above)

So, Jon, if you’re listening, I’ve got a book on the topic of the South in popular culture, this here blog, and hell, I’ve even written an op-ed for the New York Times. I’m also a fan of the show, if that helps.  And, I’d love to talk “the South” with you while you’re in Charlotte.

Pop South readers: Join me in my campaign and tweet to get @Sassyprof on the air.  Tweet this message:  Give @Sassyprof a guest slot to discuss the South and the media @TheDailyShow #CharlotteDNC

Black Domestic in a Can–A South Carolina Ad Agency “Helps” Glory Foods

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  After tweeting Scott Brandon of the Brandon Agency about these offensive commercials, they have been removed from YouTube.  Coincidence?  I think Pop South as well as viewer comments must have gotten their attention. (4/19/2012)

I wonder if you have seen these commercials by Glory Foods?  It’s a company out of Columbus, Ohio, that specializes in canned goods they call “Southern food with a soulful heritage.” In one, there’s a frustrated white housewife in the kitchen and she’s having trouble in preparing dinner for her guests.  What’s she going to do?  Not to worry, a black woman (known as “Shirley” on the company’s website) busts through the door to help!   As she prepares the food, a can of Glory collard greens, the white woman can relax.  Not only does she have a black woman working it out for her in her kitchen, she’s got food that already has its southern seasoning.   Even better, Shirley plans to stay hidden in the kitchen as she shouts to the white woman “Now get on out there, and take all the Glory!”

I thought this was an unfortunate commercial, until I saw a second and related commercial.  It’s the same white woman, although this time her two children are involved, shouting and banging their forks and knives on the table.  Who’s going to rescue Miss White Lady now?  You guessed it, the canned black domestic.*  She’s going to set those mouthy children straight, make sure they eat their vegetables, and guess who gets to take “all the glory?”  Miss White Lady.

I wonder what is going on here, because it looks like Glory Foods is taking its cues from The Help.  But this isn’t 1960s Jackson, Mississippi. I went to the website of the company and that’s where I discovered that this is a black-owned business with an African American CEO who has an MBA from Duke University.  So what gives?

Who is the company trying to reach with these commercials except, perhaps, all those white women who read The Help and are looking to recapture some of that for themselves? It’s certainly an interesting marketing ploy.  Perhaps that is the point. And guess what?

The Brandon Agency, a South Carolina-based advertising agency with offices in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and even Charlotte, North Carolina are behind the TV commercials.  The agency was hired by Glory Foods back in February, which explains why these commercials have recently appeared in Charlotte.  Take a look at the agency’s website and you’ll find something very interesting–the entire leadership team is white.  That’s right.  White “originalists” (the term the agency uses to describe company leaders and probably found in the bottom of a cocktail glass) from South Carolina came up with the Glory Food campaign featuring a modern-day Aunt Jemima.

However, this shouldn’t let Glory Foods off the hook.  If this company were run by whites we’d be all over it with this analogy to The Help, which is why I don’t understand why Glory Foods and The Brandon Agency aren’t being called out for perpetuating this particular southern stereotype.

Maybe not enough people have seen these commercials or realize the underlying assumption (or history) of mammy in the kitchen.  If they had, they’d be as concerned about this image of black women as I am.

 

Occupy South Carolina? Yes. Republican debaters beware!

South Carolina is one of the most conservative states in the nation, a place where Republican presidential candidates are often assured of a supportive crowd.  So, when Michele Bachmann took to the stage to give a foreign policy speech aboard the WWII air craft carrier USS Yorktown, harbored near Charleston, South Carolina, she was taken by surprise when a group of around 30 protestors, affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement, shouted her down with chants of “you cater to the 1 percent!”  Instead of giving her policy speech, she was ushered off stage.  Score one for Occupy Charleston.

This was not a huge political story, but the fact that it took place in South Carolina drew significant media interest.  So often, it seems, the media delights in spreading the news of South Carolina’s political nuttiness.  To be fair, the state has often served as a wellspring of such stories in recent years.  Former governor Mark Sanford’s well-publicized affair with his Argentinian mistress, which included his weepy and weird press conference did nothing for the state’s political reputation.  Then, there was Alvin Greene, an unemployed Air Force veteran who was indicted for showing pornographic photos to a female student at the University of South Carolina, who still garnered enough votes to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.

Some in the media seem shocked that a pocket of populism (much less liberalism) exists in a state known for its conservative politics and its Tea Party governor, Nikki Haley.  The action taken by Occupy Charleston simply does not play into popular perceptions of the state; therefore, it was news that, even in South Carolina, people are taking a stand on behalf of the 99%.

This election, however, is ultimately about the economy and South Carolina is suffering.  The state’s unemployment rate is at 11% and in some areas that percentage is far higher. So, when the GOP’s presidential candidates gather tomorrow at Wofford College in Spartanburg for yet another debate, don’t be surprised if you hear from members of Occupy South Carolina and their friends in the pro-labor “Redneck Party” who are going after what they call “cheap labor” conservatives.  The Occupy Movement is alive and well in the Palmetto State. Don’t be so surprised.

Ben Bernanke–South of the Border

Pedro
If you’ve ever traveled on I-95 and made it to Dillon, South Carolina, then you most certainly have noticed (and how could you not?) South of the Border and its steady stream of neon painted billboards with “Pedro,” the sombrero wearing icon, trying to draw you in to the roadside attraction to eat a hot tamale or take your kids to “Pedroland.”

South of the Border, owned and operated for years by Alan Schafer, began as the South of the Border Beer Depot.  According to Nicole King, a professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County who has written about the creation of what is known as “S.O.B.”, Alan and his father Samuel had a successful beer distribution company and because they were Jews, could avoid the cultural stigma associated with beer sales that Baptists and other religious conservatives could not. Over the years, especially after the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, South of the Border grew from beer depot into a souvenir shop to catch the traffic now going up and down I-95.(See King’s article “Behind the Sombrero: Identity and Power at South of the Border, 1949-2001,” in Dixie Emporium: Tourism, Foodways, and Consumerism in the American South, edited by Anthony Stanonis).

Chairman Ben Bernanke

What you might not know and what I learned recently through a fellow historian and Facebook friend is that our current Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, worked as a waiter one summer at South of the Border.  This must certainly be a feather in his sombrero and should have brought him more respect from Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who accused his fellow southerner of “treason.”  That’s right.  Fellow southerner.  Bernanke didn’t just work at S.O.B., he is originally from Dillon, South Carolina.  Take that, Senor Perry.

Alan Schafer

South of the Border is complex, just as complex as Alan Schafer, who died in 2001.  As King explains, the roadside attraction “memorializes the African American experience by selling ‘authentic souvenirs’ from Africa in a Mexican-themed tourist spot created by a progressive Jewish man in the predominantly Anglo, conservative, and Protestant American South.”  And that’s just for starters.

All this is to say S.O.B. is a fascinating place.  And it just became more fascinating to me, now that I know that Ben Bernanke, the man who can make economic markets go up or down whenever he speaks, once worked under the big sombrero.