Mitt Romney, a former Republican presidential candidate, has spoken out against use of the Confederate flag -- specifically citing the one that flies over the South Carolina Senate Capitol. The use of the flag has been debated for a long time, but the racially motivated shooting at a black Charleston, South Carolina, church last week that left nine dead has reignited calls for its removal.
â€” Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) June 20, 2015
Speaking on Twitter, Romney calls the flag a “symbol of racial hatred,” echoing the opinions of many other political leaders -- including President Obama and leaders of civil rights organization NAACP along with many others. His call for removal is not surprising, considering in a 2008 debate he said the flag "shouldn't be flown," adding that it's "not a flag [he] recognize[s]."
Still, many in South Carolina and other areas of the South insist that the flag is a symbol of the state’s history and continue to defend the right to fly it. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a current GOP presidential candidate for 2016, appeared on several talk shows explaining why in South Carolina some choose to continue flying the rebel flag.
Speaking in an interview with CNN, Graham said the Confederate flag is “part of who we are” and does not link the historical racist symbolism of the flags with present-day racist acts. During the interview, Graham said that racist “problems we have in South Carolina and throughout the world” are not the result of symbols, but rather because it’s “what’s in people’s heart[s].”
However, Graham did say that he would not be opposed to revisiting the idea of removing the flag. The flag, which is protected by the 2000 South Carolina Heritage Act, means the flag cannot be be taken down until state laws are changed.
One South Carolina state representative is making moves to do just that. Republican state Rep. Norman “Doug” Brannon told MSNBC he plans on sponsoring legislation during the next session to take down the flag at the Capitol.
“I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Brannon said of one of the victims, Democratic state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Wednesday leading a Bible study when the gunman opened fire. “Sen. Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics, but I’m going to introduce that bill for that reason.”