Update: In a statement Tuesday, Mulvaney called for the flag's removal from the statehouse grounds.
In speaking with many people over the course of the last few days, it has become clear that the flag does in fact mean different things to different people in our state. And I blame myself for not listening closely enough to people who see the flag differently than I do. It is a poor reflection on me that it took the violent death of my former desk mate in the SC Senate, and eight others of the best the Charleston community had to offer, to open my eyes to that. And because of those very different — and very valid — impressions of what the flag represented, I admit that the flag has become a distraction: something that prevents us from talking about all that is good about South Carolina. It strikes me as particularly disappointing, for example, that we have spent more time talking about the flag for the last few days than we have talking about the extraordinary display of faith, love, and forgiveness shown by the families of the victims of the shooting in Charleston. If the flag has become an excuse for people to ignore things like that, then perhaps time has come for a change.
I hope that the Legislature can do the same thing now that they did 15 years ago: take the time and effort to fashion a compromise that removes the flag in a way that all South Carolinians can rally around with pride and respect — and with the sense of community that has been on display for the world to see in Charleston in the aftermath of last Wednesday evening. By doing that we will once again have the opportunity to show everyone what is special about our state. Maybe with the flag removed, people will listen.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney says the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol grounds is the "result of a compromise" that should be respected, and he's not sure if the flag should be removed.
"Here is the starting point for that debate and you may remember this, not everybody listening would remember this," Mulvaney said in an interview on WRHI Monday. "The reason the flag is where it is was the result of a compromise. Something that is all too rare in my business. It was part of a compromise that I wasn't there and I didn't vote on it at the time but it was predated my presence in Columbia by just a couple years.
"That had nearly 100% of support. Republicans, Democrats, white, blacks, take the flag off the dome, put it on the monument and then create the African-American monument that is there today," Mulvaney continued. "So I think the starting point for debate needs to recognize the fact that things are like they are on the statehouse grounds as the result of compromise. And I think it's important to recognize that."
Mulvaney said he was "saddened by the fact that we are going to focus immediately it seems, before the funeral has even started we have already started talking about things that can divide us on things that can divide us and things that are negative instead of focusing on this tremendous expression of love and faith and forgiveness that the families showed last week at the hearing for the young man."
"We have a flag on the statehouse grounds that some people think is divisive yet we had no race riots they don't have that flag in Ferguson, Missouri they had race riots," he continued. "They don't have that flag in Baltimore, Maryland yet they had race riots so maybe the flag isn't the heart of the matter here. Maybe it's the community that is the heart of the matter. I'm open to talking about it, I'm open to having the debate if this compromise is something folks want to talk about, lets do that."
Mulvaney said he welcomed the debate over the flag, but that debate should be between South Carolinians. He said the state should "not let Al Sharpton drive the debate in South Carolina" or "make decision based on reactionary principles during an emotional time. If you want to have the debate, lets have it in a reasoned fashion."
"None of their business," he added when asked about Al Shaprton and Jesse Jackson.
Mulvaney said we should also listen to what African-American members of the state legislature have to say. "Lets let South Carolinians have this debate," he said.
Asked if he would change his position if the flag should move, he said, "I don't know. I got to have a good reason to change what it is, because right now what we have is a result of compromise and that should be respected."
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan Apper is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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