clock menu more-arrow no yes

Even Strom Thurmond’s son is over the Confederate battle flag now

Paul Thurmond calls for the Confederate flag to come down.
Paul Thurmond calls for the Confederate flag to come down.
PaulThurmond.com

This statement, from South Carolina Republican state Senator Paul Thurmond, is the New York Times's quotation of the day for Wednesday:

The statement is, of course, newsworthy not because any of the information about the link between the Confederate battle flag, racism, and slavery is news (it's not, at all).

It's because Thurmond's statement captures the way many Republicans have suddenly, publicly come to terms with this connection, in the wake of the massacre of nine African Americans at Charleston, South Carolina's Emanuel AME Church by openly racist, Confederate flag-wearing suspect Dylann Roof.

The state senator's words also stand out because they provide a marked contrast to his father Strom Thurmond's infamous enthusiasm for preserving slavery's legacy in the form of racial segregation. (Notably, the "Dixiecrat" party, under whose banner the senior Thurmond ran for president in 1948, used the Confederate flag as its symbol.)

The news around the recent push to remove the flag from statehouse grounds and license plates is important (and developing — read the latest here). But the quote also offers a bigger lesson about American racism: It's sobering to realize that such a straightforward message — that slavery and white supremacy aren't sources of pride —  is still, in 2015, the kind of thing that would need to be said at all.