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South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley was honored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations on Thursday evening with a dinner ceremony to celebrate her contributions to the progress of racial justice.
Harvard Foundation Director S. Allen Counter presented her with an award of appreciation for her calls to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol this past summer.
In remarks in Winthrop House, Haley described the bright future of a “New South” dedicated to tackling historical problems of racial and economic inequality. She also offered a defense of the Republican Party and its values in solving problems for low-income people and people of color in her state.
“I would not have won the Republican primary if this were a racially intolerant party,” said Haley, who is Indian American.
Haley entered the political spotlight this summer after nine black members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., were shot and killed, allegedly in a racially motivated attack by Dylann Roof. Haley called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol in the wake of the killings, and many people throughout the country celebrated her subsequent signing of the bill that took the flag down.
Reflecting on her choice to call for the removal of the flag, Haley said Thursday that “the State House belongs to all people, and it needed to be welcoming to all people.”
“That was not possible with the flag flying,” she concluded.
Haley spoke in depth about how South Carolina residents responded to this summer’s massacre, contrasting it with the violence that erupted in cities like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore after killings of unarmed black people at the hands of police there.
Haley, while maintaining that “black lives do matter,” argued that the uprisings in other cities in fact hurt black people who face police violence. Charleston, in contrast, saw no violence in the wake of the church massacre, with Haley describing the local reaction as a peaceful coming together to mourn the loss of life.
While Haley’s remarks were met with applause, students who attended the ceremony were more mixed in their reactions.
Tyler S. Parker ’17, who attended the dinner ceremony, said Haley “spoke a lot about racial unity and peaceful conversations, and that really resonated with me as a moderate.”
Still, Parker pushed back on the contrast Haley drew between the reactions to violence in Charleston and that in Ferguson and Baltimore, suggesting that the “volatile responses” seen there “probably created the social pressures” that made the peaceful response in South Carolina possible.
“It all just goes to show these conversations are pretty complicated,“ he said.
Haley met with University President Drew G. Faust and Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana during her visit, according to Counter.
—Staff writer Sidni M. Frederick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @SidniFrederick.
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