My editor at the Atlantic asked me to revise a recent post on the DNC and the Confederate flag. You can read it below or at the Atlantic. I have no doubt that it will raise the usual cries of South/Confederate heritage bashing from the usual suspects. What I find funny is that the posts I’ve written for the Atlantic that could be construed as Union bashing or whatever the equivalent is this side of the Mason-Dixon Line rarely receive any kind of condemnation. Funny how that works. Click here for the rest of the my Atlantic columns.
Next month’s Democratic National Convention and the nomination of the nation’s first black president for a second term in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, will provide an ideal backdrop for those looking to assess the region’s progress on the racial front. At front and center for many sits the Confederate flag.
Reports are likely to resemble this recent article from The Charlotte Observer, written by Elizabeth Leland, who believes that “remnants of the Old South linger in our region — and none as divisive as the Confederate flag.” Such articles follow a well-worn pattern that includes interviews with one or two white southern men who fly the flag on their property or pickup truck and believe it represents “heritage, not hate.” (As an auto mechanic quoted in Leland’s story puts it, “I’ve lived here since I was a little rascal and my daddy always had an American flag and a Confederate flag, and I do, too.”)
You can check out the rest of his films or head on over to his impressive list of commercials for Iams dog food and even Trojan condoms as well as a video for 2LiveCrew and Ice-T. He even dabbles in a little photography, some of which is pretty good.
Nowhere will you find a reference to his leadership in the SCV mentioned on his website. Even his personal twitter feed is void of any SCV rumblings. It appears that these two worlds are completely separated from one another. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised by this, but I have to wonder how many people in the SCV even know about his Hollywood moonlighting.
It’s just not what you expect of an SCV commander. I have to say that I love the idea of Givens hangin’ with Hollywood elites and rap artists. I don’t think I will ever look at the SCV the same. This is a pretty hip organization.
I suspect that the Confederate flag story out of Lexington will go viral by the end of the day. No doubt, we will be treated to the standard mainstream media narrative of an unfinished Civil War as well as the overly defensive posture of the SCV. Already we’ve heard from Brandon Dorsey, who is the local SCV commander in Lexington:
As far as I am concerned, this is little different that some states shutting down all their public schools to avoid desegregation and then claiming their motivation for closing them is of no concern because they screwed over everyone.
Oh brother. Pass the hyperbole. The SCV and other heritage groups have staked everything on the display of the Confederate flag. It’s all or nothing. Any attempt at limiting its visibility is seen as an attack on their history and heritage as if they alone have a monopoly on the Southern past.
The days when the Confederate flag represented a people, a culture, and a history are over. Thankfully, we now live in a time when an ever wider spectrum of voices are able to make their voices heard and they are adamant that the flag ought not to be displayed on public property and/or supported with taxpayer dollars. Why? Because of its history and nothing the SCV or anyone else says or does can change the flag’s symbolic connection to a history of violence and racism. I suspect that most reasonable people would agree that there are settings in which its display is appropriate and even necessary, but that is a discussion the SCV will not consider.
This has nothing to do with hating the South or “evilizing” the Confederacy. That is as unimaginative an argument as one can make and as we have seen it will lead to the SCV’s continued marginalization in society. The SCV’s decision to stake everything on the flag reflects a simplistic understanding of the very history and heritage that they claim to defend. Instead of wasting limited resources on court cases, television ads, and airplane banners they should be thinking of creative ways to share the rich history of the Confederacy and their ancestors in their local communities.
When it comes to the Confederate flag the SCV is doomed to fail and they deserve everything they get.
A legal battle to fly the Confederate flag from the street light poles of Lexington died today at the hand of a federal judge. In a written opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Wilson dismissed a lawsuit against the city filed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The lawsuit challenged an ordinance, passed last year amid public furor, that limited the types of flags that can be flown from city-owned light poles. Lexington City Council’s decision to fly only the city, state and national flags was “eminently reasonable,” Wilson wrote in a 10-page opinion released late today.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans had claimed that the city abused their free speech rights — banning the battle flag because of its controversial nature. But in granting the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Wilson wrote that the city’s alleged motivations do not override the fact that the ordinance is content-neutral on its face. By allowing only flags that represent government to be displayed on its light poles, the city essentially banned all private displays, including not just the Sons of Confederate Veterans but also two universities and several fraternities that have previously been allowed access to the poles. For that reason, the city argued, the ordinance did not shun a particular cause and thus was not subject to First Amendment attack. Wilson agreed, writing that to allow “a city-owned flag pole to serve as a public forum could suggest that government has placed its imprimatur on private expression.”
U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Wilson said he would likely rule on the city of Lexington’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Stonewall Brigade in “one to two weeks.” The Sons have maintained all along that a Lexington ordinance banning all flags from city flagpoles except the city’s, the commonwealth’s, and the U.S. flag, specifically targeted them. Lawyers for the Sons said the flagpoles were a “designated public forum,” therefore the Constitution protected the Sons, and most any others who requested to fly flags from city flagpoles. Attorneys for the city said the ordinance was “government speech,” essentially saying that since it was Lexington’s flagpoles, the city could choose which groups represent its brand and which ones didn’t. Sons of Confederate Veterans Stonewall Brigade leader, Brandon Dorsey, said: “I think in this case city council made it abundantly clear that the reason why they were trying to shut [the use of the flagpoles] off from us was because they didn’t like the flags and didn’t like [our] group.” Lexington city officials declined to comment after the hearing.
So, what are the implications for this case? If the judge decides against the city the Sons of Confederate Veterans will get to display the flag in downtown Lexington and if the judge decides in favor of the city the SCV gets to display the flag in downtown Lexington.