The lawmaker son of notorious segregationist and former U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond said on Tuesday that he was proud to support the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capitol.
South Carolina state Sen. Paul Thurmond (R) addressed the Senate after Gov. Nikki Haley (R) called on lawmakers to vote for the flag to be removed. Her call followed the massacre at a historic black church. The suspect, a white man with apparent white supremacist views, was often photographed embracing the flag before the killings.
Thurmond, whose segregationist father died in 2003, noted the role his own ancestors played in the history of the South and their involvement in the Civil War. Thurmond proudly recalled some of the positive aspects of their legacy but lamented that his ancestors didn’t always make the right decisions.
“For the life of me, I will never understand how anyone could fight a Civil War based in part on the desire to continue the practice of slavery,” Thurmond said. “Think about it for just a second. Our ancestors were literally fighting to continue to keep human beings as slaves, and continue the unimaginable acts that occur when someone is held against their will. I am not proud of that heritage.”
“Now we have these hate groups and the symbols that they use to remind African-Americans that things haven’t changed and that they are still viewed as less than equal human beings,” Thurmond continued. “Well, let me tell you, things have changed. Overwhelmingly, people are not being raised to hate or to believe that they are superior to others based on the color of their skin.”
Thurmond’s father also served as the state’s governor and was known as a fierce supporter of Jim Crow. The elder Thurmond fought civil rights legislation and was in favor of segregation, views he stressed during a presidential run. In the 1970s and 1980s Strom Thurmond reversed his stance on these issues.
“I am proud to be on the right side of history regarding the removal of this symbol of racism and bigotry from the Statehouse,” Paul Thurmond said on Tuesday. “But let us not be satisfied to stop there. Justice by halves is not justice. We must take down the Confederate flag and we must take it down now. But if we stop there, we have cheated ourselves out of an opportunity to start a different conversation about healing in our state.”
Thurmond was one of the first state lawmakers to call for the removal of the flag.
Watch video of Thurmond’s speech at The Post and Courier newspaper.
Ahiza Garcia is a newswriter based in New York City. Before joining TPM, Ahiza interned and freelanced for Nightline, Fox Sports, and ESPN the Magazine. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Columbia University and an M.S. in digital journalism from Syracuse University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.