Cummings: "Not enough" to take down Confederate flag

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, says it’s important to take down the Confederate flag, but many things still need to be done to repair race relations in the United States
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, says it’s... 05:00

As the debate rages on over the removal of the Confederate flag from South Carolina's capitol, one Democrat is saying that taking down the "symbol of racial hatred" is only the first step.

"I think it is a major thing that has to happen, and it will happen, I agree. And I applaud the folks in South Carolina for doing that. I also applaud the Governor of Alabama for doing what he's done, taking down the flag," Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "But that is simply is not enough. That is simply a symbol of bigotry, a symbol of racial hatred, a symbol of inequality for me and for so many others."

Several Republican leaders have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from where it flies near South Carolina's capitol building, after a gunman with white supremacist ideologies killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston. Gov. Nikki Haley, joined by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, said Monday that it was "time to move" the Confederate symbol.

"Now we must begin to address racial disparities and inequalities themselves," Cummings added. "And I think that's the most important thing. Again, it's good to take the flag down, but now we have to move beyond that."

On Friday, at the funeral service of pastor and State Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the president also threw in his support for the Confederate flag's removal, saying that doing so was not an insult to the South's Confederate ancestors but that it "would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought - the cause of slavery - was wrong."

But the president also called for progress beyond taking down the symbol. Cummings said that that he believed Obama wanted the nation to "pull the blinders from over our eyes."

"We don't have the right to remain silent about what we see. In the past, we've put Band-Aids on the symptoms," the Maryland Democrat said. "[We've] said okay we've got a problem here, so we'll do something there and here. But the fact still remains."

Rather than ignore systemic racist practices, Cummings wants the nation to focus on issues like joblessness, healthcare access, education, and the criminal justice system -- "things that go to the quality of life of African Americans and other people."

"Let's begin to act. It's nice to talk. But at some point the talk has to turn into deeds, to actually affect people's lives from day to day," Cummings said.

And for cities like Baltimore, where racial tensions flared after the death of a young black man in police custody, there's still "a long way to go."

Cummings, who represents a large swath of Baltimore County in the House of Representatives, has a lot of hope for the progress made since violent protests rocked the city in April. Baltimore hasn't, he said, "slipped back to business as usual."

"I don't think Baltimore will ever be the same," Cummings said. "Is it going to be easy? No, it's not going to be easy. Dealing with problems that have been systemic for so long. It's going to be very difficult."