Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are scheduled to attend the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday march and rally Jan. 21, just days before Democrats in this early primary state go to the polls. The NAACP hopes the candidates, and the national attention they’ll bring, will spotlight the divisive flag that now flutters alongside one of the city’s busiest streets.
“America is a mean country and South Carolina is a meaner state,” said Lonnie Randolph, president of the state chapter of the NAACP. “For the government of this state to continue to endorse bigotry, racism and white supremacy, we are going to continue raise our voice and speak out against it.”
The banner—a symbol of Southern pride to some and racism to others—was moved from the Capitol dome seven years ago to a Confederate monument in front of the Statehouse. While the rebel flag no longer draws the same level of protest that turned out thousands when it flew atop the dome, it still shadows presidential candidates when they come to South Carolina, which holds the first Southern primaries.
“People are more concerned about the economy than they are about that flag,” said black activist Kevin Gray, who once ran for governor as a third party candidate. “Keeping their lights on. Keeping their homes. There are a lot of bread and butter issues going on right now. The flag is certainly a symbol of white supremacy but understanding that doesn’t necessarily help you pay those bills any easier.”