Nikki Haley Something Something Obama Charleston Massacre
I'm a South Carolina native who has never had much to do with former governor Nikki Haley. I know some people on both the right and the left see her as a moderate, sane option in a post-Trump world, but I've never jumped on her bandwagon, even after she realized it was the 21st Century and had the Confederate flag removed from the statehouse.
Soon to be voluntarily fun-employed, Haley stuck her nose into the anti-Semitic slaughter of Jewish people in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to absolve her boss, Donald Trump, of any responsibility for it. She did this by appropriating the racist slaughter of black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
I've written about how no one ever wants to "blame" people for the killings of ethnic or religious minorities. When a Muslim or illegal immigrant kills someone, though, it's suddenly "The Blame Game" presented by FOX News. But what is Haley even saying here? Why would anyone with the brain power to tie their shoes hold a black president responsible for the racial killing of black churchgoers? Was Obama spreading conspiracy theories about people of color? Did he hold campaign rallies stoking fear against black people? "Some high-ranking black officials weren't even born in this country! Believe me, I know!"
Nikki Haley was mildly tolerated by black residents of my home state. We tend to have a "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" view of Republican governors, so when Haley took office, we weren't fooled again. The idea that she'd dare talk about how "we never blamed Obama" is infuriating. No black person ever did. South Carolina helped send Obama to the White House and we welcomed him with open arms when he returned to grieve with us. Haley has no right to speak for us with her sorry, selling-out-to-Trump ass.
Yes, Obama's mere existence as the first black president provoked tremendous racist backlash, which is why we were so "racially divided at the time." (Just at that time, Haley, no other period you can think of in South Carolina history?) But that's not in the same ballpark as Trump's regularly scheduled Klan rallies where he demonizes people who then coincidentally become targets for violence. Conservatives also had no problem blaming Obama for police shootings in New York or Dallas just because he gently suggested that unarmed black people shouldn't die for possession of loose cigarettes.
Haley is also furthering Trump's laughable talking point that the "media didn't blame Obama" for the actions of a white supremacist. Obama, in fact, blamed himself or at least the gaps in the FBI's background check that allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun. This was covered quite a bit.
Before Trump actually won the presidency and ambitious Republicans were scrambling to distance themselves from him in preparation for a 2020 run against Hillary Clinton, Haley denounced Trump's inflammatory, divisive rhetoric and even linked it to the Charleston shooting.
"I know what that rhetoric can do. I saw it happen," Haley said.
Haley has repeatedly spoken out against Trump, including in February when she knocked the businessman for not forcefully disavowing support from white supremacists.
"I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK," Haley said. "That is not a part of our party, that is not who we want as president. We will not allow that in our country."
This was in June of 2016. By late November, Haley had agreed to work in Trump's upcoming administration. It took longer for Prince's cousin to go from trying "reefer" to "doing horse" in "Sign o' the Times."
I don't buy into the theories that Haley is considering a primary challenge to Trump. I tend to think she'd get crushed, and Trump would humiliate her in South Carolina as thoroughly as he did Rubio in Florida. But maybe she is thinking longer term: She'd only be 52 in 2024. Defending Trump helps with his supporters in her home state who have not fully forgiven her for removing their racist treason flag. It also isn't a good look to have "worked for repugnant racist" on her resume, but "not all great Neptune's ocean" will ever wash the blood from her hands.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.