Discussions about the Confederate Flag and its place in the south began again with the introduction of an updated design for a special license plate which features the flag across its width. The previous design, which had been available since 2003, featured the same flag in a corner of the plate and also faced resistance. According to an NPR article titled “Georgia Clears The Road For Confederate-Themed License Plate” by Adam Ragusea, the submitters of the design are from the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. According to the same article, their spokesman Ray McBerry said, “We did anticipate that there could be some folks who would not like that, but we encourage them to go and make an application for their own specialty plates.”
The problem isn’t having a specialty plate; it’s the history that comes behind the Confederate flag and the message it will continue to send. To me, the flag itself will always represent a history of racism, injustice and oppression. It’s time to let the Confederate flag die and to find a new symbol for southern pride.
The problem comes from the origins of the Confederacy. As much as supporters will try to deny it to this day, the reasons for southern states seceding from the Union was the institution of slavery. States like South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi all laid this out in plain language in the 1860’s.
In 1956, Governor Marvin Griffin signed into law House Bill No. 98, which incorporated the Confederate battle flag into the state flag. Governor Griffin was quoted that year saying, “There will be no mixing of the races in the public schools and college classrooms of Georgia anywhere or at any time as long as I am governor.” These actions continue to send a clear message of what the Confederate flag meant and still means to many Southerners.
Throughout the 1960s, both support and opposition of the Confederate flag grew. As civil rights activists carried the American flag to remind the public of the ideals of freedom and equality, segregationists flew the Confederate flag to defend the “Southern way of life.” The notion that this is a representation of any way of life is a problem in my eyes.
Even today, the symbol is used in a negative manner. Earlier this month, the FBI aided in the investigation of a vandalized a statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. University police had found the statue of Meredith, who was the first black student to enroll in the then all-white southern college in 1962, with a rope noose and a pre-2003 Georgia State flag with the Confederate “Stars and Bars” on its face.
I won’t deny that this symbol is something that will probably remain prevalent in the south. However, calling it a point of pride lets me know that you do find pride in its history and I will never support that. It is past time for this flag to be retired for good.