University of Pennsylvania Professor of American Social Thought and History and former Chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Mary Frances Berry argued that South Carolina should pass a minimum wage law in addition to removing the Confederate flag in an interview with NPR’s Kelly McEvers on Thursday.
Berry said, “Well, it — the emphasis on the flag and the monuments and the symbols is a diversion when it takes away from doing something positive about the race and connected economic issues that exist in this country. I mean, it’s easy for a business to say, you know, ‘We won’t sell any more Confederate flags,’ or whatever or for people to get up on the floor of the legislature and say ‘Let’s change the name of Jeff. Davis Boulevard to, I don’t know, some other Boulevard – Calvin Coolidge or somebody.’ But it would be much more effective, and solve the problems which the symbols stand for, if we were to have some practical solutions.”
When asked what “practical solutions” she would like to see implement, Berry responded, “Well, one thing I was hoping, that the South Carolina legislature, instead of just taking the flag down, would pass Sen. Pinckney’s bill. He was the senator who was killed, the pastor, which is for minimum wage in the state. The state doesn’t have a minimum wage. And one of the things that he advocated strongly, one of his bills in the Senate, was that a bill be passed. He talked eloquently about his mother, who worked at so many jobs for little money over the years to support him and their kids, and he pleaded for that bill. I think it would be wonderful if the South Carolina legislature passed such a bill.”
She continued that while anonymous, private donations to the church were “important,” “I also think that our government and our policymakers play a role, and that the politicians shouldn’t be let off the hook. After they’ve made all the speeches about the flag and, you know, this thing has been rung dry, they ought to be making some proposals about something to alleviate the problems.”
Berry added, “In this country, many people thought that with President Obama getting elected and now, you know, re-elected, that we’d become post-racial, and all race problems would disappear, which was naive. Unfortunately, we have seen retrogression in a lot of areas, in particular, with police-community relations, and with the racial attitudes in all the surveys that are being done and the like, so that — this is a disappointing period in the whole struggle for civil rights around questions of race.”
(h/t Stephen Miller)
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