March participants say Haley has more to learn about race

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (PROVIDED)

Taking the podium before hundreds assembled for Labor Day weekend activities in downtown Charleston, the Rev. Joseph Darby said he has no doubt that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was deeply affected by the slayings of nine black churchgoers earlier this summer.

The second-term Republican, the daughter of Indian immigrants, may have diversity in her background but she has a warped sense of racial reality in South Carolina and is misguided when she talks about the state having racial harmony, Darby told a crowd of around 500 gathered in Marion Square.

“She still needs a little bit of education,” said Darby — an official with Charleston NAACP and longtime friend of Clementa Pinckney, the senator and pastor slain with eight others at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in June — to cheers and applause from those gathered in the hot morning sun. “She is not the poster child for racial harmony.”

“Rather than condemning ‘Black Lives Matter,’ you might ought to lighten up and listen to what they have to say,” Darby admonished the governor.

Darby referenced Haley’s comments recently at the National Press Club in Washington, where South Carolina’s first minority governor said that black lives do matter but have been “disgracefully jeopardized” by the Black Lives Matter movement that laid waste to Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

Haley called the riots there senseless, saying they primarily harmed black residents and the businesses that serve them. But in South Carolina, primarily in the wake of the church slayings, the governor said the state showed off how far race relations in South Carolina have come.

“With the grace of the aftermath of the Mother Emanuel church massacre, the world saw South Carolina as we are,” she said. “We’ve been that way for some time now — it’s just that a lot of people outside of our state never noticed.”

At Saturday’s events, relatives of Walter Scott — the black man shot to death by a white police officer in North Charleston this spring — joined with the families of those killed at Mother Emanuel to march through downtown Charleston and discuss race relations, labor issues and healing. Darby’s sentiments were echoed by an NAACP leader from North Carolina, who also said Haley only spoke out about removing the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds after the deaths, not before the tragedy.

“This narrative suggests that only black death matters,” the Rev. William Barbour said. “She didn’t move the flag when living people boycotted the flag for 15 years with the NAACP.”

Haley, whose call to remove the flag was ultimately successful this past July, says the state has made race-based progress but still can do more. Her office also says the governor commends the AME church for setting an example of compassion that led the state through one of its most difficult periods.

“We have an inspiring story to tell: one of people coming together to show that when we listen to each other, when we take a walk in another person’s shoes, love overcomes hate — even in the face of two painful tragedies,” Haley press secretary Chaney Adams said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “The governor has an enduring respect and fondness for the AME Church - she knows South Carolina would not have gotten through this summer the way we did if it wasn’t for the example of love and compassion set by the Church and its leadership.”