This study assesses factors influencing the responsiveness of government officials in Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina regarding the public display of the Confederate Flag on state grounds in the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina shooting. The purpose of this dissertation research is to understand the factors influencing how government officials make decisions during racially/culturally sensitive events. Two research questions frame this study: 1) What factors are relevant to understanding state government officials' decision- making regarding the display of the Confederate Flag on public grounds? 2) Under what conditions of public decision making regarding the Confederate flag is executive authority, vote/referendum, or legislative processes used? Employing grounded theory across newspaper content in Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi, 117 articles were examined to provide insight into the research questions. The themes which emerged from this analysis are: 1) Key factors in the decision-making regarding the display of the Confederate Flag on state grounds are: a. The response to a triggering crisis event b. A desire for inclusiveness c. A perception of outside attention or scrutiny d. A concern for the economic well-being of the State e. The political agency of the decision maker 2) Economics, standing law, and political expediency influence decisions of whether executive authority, vote/referendum, or legislative processes are used in decision-making regarding the display of the Confederate Flag on public grounds. This study introduces a detailed model of decision-making for public officials in racially/culturally sensitive matters to navigate the handling of issues with similar schema-forming symbols which can call forth dynamic and polarizing responses. The findings from this research study can be used to foster improved government efforts at responding to matters of a highly charged emotional nature.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Public Affairs; Public Administration
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Carnegie, Vickie, "Government Responsiveness in Matters of Racial Sensitivity" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6352.