The founder of the Virginia Flaggers holds up the flag of a failed rebellion against the United States as she chats with a gentleman at a political event for prospective candidates in Wakefield, Virginia next to a poster accusing Lincoln of treason. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled earlier today that the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles did not violate the First Amendment when it denied an application by the Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans for customized plates that depicted the Confederate flag. Here are a few excerpts from the judge’s ruling.
“The issue before the court is this: does the First Amendment require a state government to place the Confederate battle flag on customized, special license plates at the request of a nonprofit organization which has otherwise complied with state rules governing issuance of such plates?” Sparks wrote. He determined that the answer is no, not because specialty license plates constitute government speech, as the board claimed, but because the plates constitute a nonpublic forum. He further found that the content of the SCV license plates drove the board’s decision, rather than the group’s viewpoint.
“The SCV repeatedly argues the fact the Buffalo Soldiers plate was approved indicates SCV was subjected to viewpoint discrimination,” Sparks wrote in the 47-page order. “SCV speculates Native Americans would be offended by the Buffalo Soldiers plate, because of the role played by African-American troops in the frontier wars of the nineteenth century. However, the record does not support this assertion: in contrast to the chorus of negative public comments raised against the SCV’s plate, there appears to have been no significant objection to the Buffalo Soldiers plate, rendering SCV’s assertion the Buffalo Soldiers plate is equally derogatory at best purely speculative.”
Sparks noted that, unlike the SCV plates, the Buffalo Soldiers plates lack an “inflammatory symbol comparable to the Confederate battle flag.” The judge also noted that the group could turn to state lawmakers to get its license plates approved. “Although suggesting a petitioner for judicial relief should look to the legislative branch for assistance is usually the practical equivalent of there being no relief available, here the Texas Legislature can and frequently has approved a variety of plates — including controversial plates, such as ‘Choose Life’ — by direct legislative action,” Sparks states.
The order concludes: “It is a sad fact the Confederate battle flag has been co-opted by odious groups as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. There is no reason to doubt the SCV and its members are entirely heartfelt in their condemnation of this misuse. It is to be hoped the passage of time, and efforts such as the SCV’s resolution, will eventually remove a blight from the flag under which feats of great heroism and fortitude were accomplished. All the traditional avenues of public discourse are open to those who would fully redeem the battle flag. Nevertheless, the state of Texas has chosen to abstain from this debate, and the First Amendment does not require it to open up state-issued license plates as an additional forum in which to contest the flag’s meaning.”
I find the judge’s thoughts re: the flag’s symbolism to be very strange. How exactly do you “remove a blight” from a flag that was used between 1861- and 1865 to establish a nation built on slavery and later in the twentieth century as a visible symbol for the maintenance of the racial status quo? The Confederate flag doesn’t need to be “redeemed” from anything. What it deserves is a proper interpretation in a place that fosters serious reflection.
Oh well, I guess the Texas SCV can at least fall back on their recent victory in Palestine. Where is Palestine, you ask?
So, in addition to having trouble accessing my blog yesterday the news feed that I use to track stories related to Civil War memory is clogged with articles about the Brad Paisley – LL Cool J controversy. I’m not sure which is worse. I don’t have anything insightful to say about the song other than that the music and lyrics are both the work of amateurs. To be honest, it seems to be much to do about nothing.
On the other hand, I got nothing but props for Leslie Harris of Orange, Texas who asked the city council to consider resolutions and ordinances that would block a planned Confederate veterans memorial that includes a flag just off the interstate. Harris argues that, in fact, this is not a veterans memorial, but a Confederate flag memorial. She also offers some comments about the appropriateness of publicly acknowledging Confederate History Month and in the process reminds the audience that white Southern attitudes about the Confederate past are complex.
Once again, the courts have supported the right of school districts to ban students from wearing clothing that includes the Confederate flag. The most recent case involved a school district in South Carolina in which a student repeatedly clashed with school administrators over a number of t-shirts that likely were purchased at a local Dixie Outfitters, including “Southern Chicks,” “Dixie Angels,” “Southern Girls,” and “Daddy’s Little Redneck.”
Hardwick also sought to wear a shirt labeled “Black Confederates,” honoring a Louisiana Civil War regiment made up of free African-Americans. She also tried to wear shirts she characterized as protests of censorship of the others, with slogans such as “Jesus and the Confederate Battle Flag: Banned from Our Schools but Forever in Our Hearts,” and “Offended by School Censorship of Southern Heritage.”
This is nothing more than a case of bad parenting.