Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, just off a stint as Donald Trump’s appointed ambassador to the United Nations, thoroughly stepped in it a few days ago in a speech bothsidesing the Confederate battle flag, a Civil War banner that has been used as symbol of violent and institutionalized white nationalism and white supremacy since its inception. She has done this before, and will do it again, largely by pretending to be completely unaware of the flag’s role through American history, no matter how often it is explained to her.
The problem here is that Haley, who just released a similarly whining and self-serving book, wants very much to run for president under a Republican banner. That means catering to the vast swath of racists who themselves pretend that the Confederate flag is not one of the most identifiable symbols of organized American racism, but is instead a symbol of a murky, ill-defined “heritage” of revering white supremacist figures, slaveholders, terrorists, and the “Lost Cause” of states getting to decide to enslave black Americans if they damn well want to.
That’s no reason for The Washington Post to give her space for yet another official do-over, though. It’s especially redundant if Haley is going to use the space to issue snowflakian whines about how the problem isn’t her attempts to signal to racists that she feels their pain—the problem is that you people, out there, had a reaction against what she said. It is you who should feel ashamed of yourselves, not her. Wrote Haley, “Today’s outrage culture does not allow any gestures to the other side. It demands that we declare winners and losers.”
If you’re making a gesture to people who think that flying the flag of the slaveholding South, one repurposed by violent white supremacists as symbol of opposition to every civil rights demand for a century, you are going to be critiqued. The nation offers its deepest sympathies to your glass ego, person who insists on being in the national spotlight despite these travails.
But the big claim, the big fat malevolent claim that Haley trots out and shoots in the middle of the road, and one of the most common claims of conservative cretins denying their own racist beliefs, is that it’s not the “disturbing” “upsurge in white nationalism” that threatens civil rights, but the rest of you. You, there, with your “outrage culture.” And if you take Haley’s claim as a threat, you should, because that is how it is intended every time.
Says Haley of the begrudging vote to remove the Confederate battle flag from its position flying before the South Carolina statehouse, which was taken only after a white supremacist murdered black Charleston churchgoers in what he believed to be the first step of a long-promised “race war,” “Sadly, I’m not sure that in today’s political climate we would have been able to remove the flag.”
Oh, really? Why? It’s not the “upsurge in white nationalism,” so what is it?
“Rather, the reason is today’s media hysteria that makes it far more difficult to have the kind of thoughtful and prayerful dialogue we had following the Charleston murders.”
Hear that? The problem is that you people are piping up with outrage over defense of the flag rather than shutting up while post-mass-murder conservatives get on with their Thoughts and Prayers and, well, maybe conservatives are just going to leave the symbols of institutional racism up if that’s how you people are going to respond. It’s an “outrage culture” that “insists that everyone who holds a view that’s different from our own is not just mistaken. They must be evil and shunned.”
“I know too many good people in South Carolina who think differently about the flag but who are not the least bit racist,” Haley says. But they might just vote for more racism, like leaving the flag up, if people are mean to them in public. Not because they are racist, but because nonconservatives drove them to it out of not-racist spite.
There’s no point in arguing this. We should take Haley at her word, out of politeness if nothing else. She most definitely believes that people being mean to her after a speech is a greater threat to civility than white nationalism, and there’s not a conservative anywhere in the country who hasn’t horked that hairball onto a busy public street in recent years. We will just note that Nikki Haley, who supported Trump throughout her term and is the author of a recent book lauding and embracing him in response to a question nobody asked, is preparing for an evident run for the presidency. As a Republican.
And that, in turn, explains everything else.