In a big moment for South Carolina, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said Monday that the Confederate flag flying on the statehouse grounds should be taken down ASAP.
"It's time to move the flag from capitol grounds," Haley said at a press conference at the state capitol.
It's a complete 180 from just a year ago, when Haley said at a debate during her reelection campaign that the flag didn't represent a problem for South Carolina. After all, she said, the state elected her -- an Indian American -- as governor in 2010:
"We really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor, when we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator [Tim Scott],” she said. “That sent a huge message.”
Her high-profile change after an apparently racially motivated Charleston shooter killed nine black church-goers is a big moment for the state, which was the last U.S. state to fly the flag on its capitol dome, until it was moved to a nearby Confederate memorial in 2000. Here are the four most important quotes from her press conference:
"On matters of race, South Carolina has had a tough history; we all know that. Many of us have seen it in our lives, in the lives of our parents and grandparents. We don't need reminders."
This is striking to hear from South Carolina's first Indian-American governor -- as it's almost the exact opposite of what she said in her 2014 debate. While her 2014 comments suggests racism was an issue of the past, Haley acknowledged Monday that it is still a problem in South Carolina. And, she said, the Confederate flag is an unnecessary "reminder" of that.
"There's more we can do."
On improving race relations, that is. Haley made clear several times in her speech that removing the Confederate flag from state house grounds will help South Carolina heal from its darker, racially unsavory past -- and from the racially motivated murders last week.
"For those who wish to respect the flag on private property, no one will stand in your way. But the statehouse is different. The events this past week call on us to look at this in a different way."
Haley first acknowledged that there are many South Carolinians -- 61 percent according to a 2014 Winthrop University poll -- who still honor the flag as part of their and the state's heritage. But her new position suggests that she believes white supremacist groups like the politically connected Council of Conservative Citizens, which prominently fought in the 1990s to keep the flag on state grounds, shouldn't be allowed to dictate the flag's prominence on official government property.
This also seems to be something of an olive branch to those who support the flag. Back in 2000, the compromise was to move the flag to where it is now, rather than on top of the capitol dome. Today, Haley is pledging that the government won't come after people's private displays of the flag.
"We are not going to allow this symbol to divide us along longer. ... The fact that it causes so [much] pain is enough to move it from the capitol grounds. It is, after all, a capitol that belongs to all of us."
This is perhaps the most succinct argument for taking down the flag. Not everyone in the state appreciates its sentiment, so why keep it alongside the U.S. and South Carolina flags?
Haley ended her speech with a not-so-veiled threat to the state legislature, which has the sole power to move the flag. Lawmakers need a two-thirds vote, and it could be an uphill battle.
Haley is the second governor of the state to call for it being removed -- and that didn't go so well for Republican David Beasley. In 1996, the devout Christian said he had a change of heart on the flag while reading the Bible. Beasley made a very public speech from the capitol calling for the flag's removal. He lost his 1998 reelection bid -- in part, analysts argue, because conservatives who supported the flag stayed home.
Instead, a long and protracted debate within the state legislature ended up moving the flag 200 feet. But on Monday, Haley suggested it would be gone for once and for all by the 4th of July:
"It will be fitting our state will soon fly the flags of our country, of our state, and no other."