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Friday, July 01, 2011

Deep in the Heartburn of Texas—

Will Texas Issue a Commemorative Confederate License Plate?

According to The Houston Chronicle (Jun. 24), a local division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is on the brink of gaining state approval to issue a specialty license plate emblazoned with the SCV logo, which prominently features the flag of the Confederate States of America—the flag of the slave masters’ rebellion of 1861.  Journalist Renee Lee states that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle license board voted on the group's request in April, reaching a tie vote. Since one of the nine board members was absent, it was decided to reconsider the request at a meeting on June 9—but the meeting did not take place because of the death of one of the board members.  Unfortunately, this vacancy could serve the interests of the SCV if Governor Rick Perry decides to appoint someone who supports the neo-Confederate agenda, a decision that may not be made until after the summer season.

According to Lee, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles already posted a mock plate on its website, with overwhelmingly supportive comments (186 for/3 against). Furthermore, the SCV “has won approval of the license plates in nine other states, including Georgia, Maryland and Tennessee, the organization's headquarters.”  The SCV also “has filed and won lawsuits in states where its requests were denied,” and currently is seeking approval of similar plates in Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi.

The article notes that many people, especially African Americans, view the Confederate flag as a sign of racist oppression.  However, the SCV counters that the battle flag is a matter of heritage.  One SCV official declared: “We don't know how to answer when someone is offended. It's really frustrating. The flag has been tarred with a brush of racism. We're trying our best to honor Confederate soldiers. This knee-jerk reaction against all things Confederate is not right."

It is difficult to appreciate the SCV’s seemingly innocent rationale.  To argue that this flag is only representative of “heritage” seems not only shallow reasoning, but also deception and self-deception.  In fact, Edward H. Sebesta, a leading national researcher on the neo-Confederate movement, has written a letter to the Texas governor to inform him about the SCV so that he will make a decision grounded in historical and contemporary facts.  In his letter, Sebesta states:
Both now and in the past the SCV promotes racism, pro-slavery ideology, anti-Semitism, neo-Confederate ideology, and condemnations of the founder of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, as being a communist. They advance such reprehensible and anti-democratic ideals chiefly through their periodicals Confederate Veteran, Southern Mercury, and their online store and merchandise catalogs.
Sebesta has a blog dedicated to a critical study of neo-Confederates today called "Anti-Neo-Confederate."  But he has also established a blog specifically surrounding his letter to Governor Perry entitled, "Texas Confederate License Plate."  The letter provides a scholarly analysis of the SCV, demonstrating that it supports and sells literature that represents a gross perversion of the facts of chattel slavery in favor of the slave master.  The SCV further misrepresents abolitionism, and advances the spurious notion that the Old South stood for biblical orthodoxy while it was profiting from the stolen labor, rape, and homicide that undergirded chattel slavery.

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