Conversation of the Week LXXIII: Should the Divisive Confederate Flag Be Flown and Used by State Governments today?

February 24, 2014
Written by The Associated Press in
National Collegiate Dialogue
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The Georgia Department of Revenue has approve a new license plate design featuring the Confederate flag, which has ignited a long-standing debate between southern loyalists and civil rights leaders about its symbolism and history.
The Georgia Department of Revenue has approve a new license plate design featuring the Confederate flag, which has ignited a long-standing debate between southern loyalists and civil rights leaders about its symbolism and history. Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Georgia officials have once again approved a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag, infuriating civil rights advocates and renewing a debate among those who believe the symbol honors Confederate heritage and those who see it as racially charged.

The Georgia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested the new plate design, and the Georgia Department of Revenue recently approved it. The group's old plate had a small Confederate battle flag. The new one features an additional, larger image in the background that covers the entire plate.

Spokesman Ray McBerry said the group meant no offense and views the plates as a way for people to honor their heritage.

"We believe that everyone has the right to preserve their heritage," he said. "Southerners have as much right to be proud of their heritage as anybody else."

Southern Christian Leadership Conference spokesman Maynard Eaton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the state shouldn't have sanctioned the move. "To display this is reprehensible," Eaton said. "We don't have license plates saying 'Black Power.'"

Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that he was unaware of the plate. "I hadn't heard that, so I don't know anything about it," Deal said. "I'll have to talk to them about it. I had no information in advance about it."

States that joined the Confederacy have taken different positions on the battle flag.

The license plate represents just one more example in recent history where Southern states continue to promote the Confederate flag and the history it represents, which has generally been associated with segregation, white supremacy, and anti-black.

North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi have specialty license tags that include it, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Texas rejected an application to issue one on the grounds that it could offend some. The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued board members of the Texas motor vehicle agency, and the case remains in court.

In Georgia, the Department of Revenue's motor vehicle division approves proposed designs for specialty plates. Agency spokesman Nick Genesi said the old design included the Confederate battle emblem and that organizations with existing plates were allowed to submit new designs since the state switched to a new type of flat, digitally-printed plate.

Genesi said any submitted designs must not violate copyright laws.

The plates are available for an initial cost of $80, of which $10 is directed to the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group on its website says the funds will be used to promote Southern heritage through educational activities and preservation efforts around the state.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

National Collegiate Dialogue


I don't really know the

Submitted by PARKS2014-16 on

I don't really know the history surrounding the confederate flag, it's soldiers or in this case the son's division but what i gather is it some what associated with white supremacy and anti blacks. Now, although it may be hard to know the inner motives behind the people trying to promote this flag again and even though their motives are purely not racist, the mere fact that this flag is such a strong and sensitive factor when dealing with race issues, the states of Georgia and all that passed these plates need to consider the fact that their actions are bound to hurt others and maybe thats not such a good gesture especially at this time when everyone is coming together to fight against racism.

You can't please everyone

Submitted by PARKS2014-30 on

You can't please everyone with your actions. The actions taken by others will be liked by some and not by others. That's just the way things go.

well said without even having

Submitted by PARKS2014-03 on

well said without even having to touch the argument !

We also have to keep in mind

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-03 on

We also have to keep in mind that the history of the "Stars and Stripes" is equally as dark as that of the Confederate flag. We can't hide from these symbols of history. Men died defending that flag; however cruel and flawed their intentions were. We should use that flag as a tool to teach future generations about the cost of equality, and as a call-to-action for our society to continue the fight against discrimination and inequality that began so long ago.

While most people tend to

Submitted by PARKS2014-30 on

While most people tend to think of racism with the Confederate flag, that's not really what it is a symbol of. It is a regional flag for the Southern States. That's all it is.

I somewhat agree with you.

Submitted by PARKS2014-29 on

I somewhat agree with you. The Confederate flag is a symbol of the unity of the Southern states before and during the Civil War. And although the South stood for slavery, it was not the only thing they were standing up for. Although slavery was the main issue during the civil war, the war was also about economics and other issues. I believe that the Confederate flag stands for the history of the Southern states, but it also does hint at racism. I don't believe it is a symbol for racism though.

i completely agree with you.

Submitted by PARKS2014-09 on

i completely agree with you. the confederate flag isnt a symbol of racism. that war wasnt even over racism thats just what the government made it out to be in order to raise funds to support the war. sure it was a part of it, but that was not the whole reason for it. ignorance is what this argument over the flag is now being built upon.

Not being from the United

Submitted by PARKS2014-32 on

Not being from the United States, I don't have much knowledge about the Confederate flag and it's history connected to the African-American Experience. But from what the article tells and from the comment above, I think that this flag shouldn't be emphasized too much. If the flag is only representing the southern States than people shouldn't make a fuss out of it. There over 200 nations in the world including numerous states and provinces and every nation as well as every state and province have is own flag and every flag has its history - good and bad events connected to it. If "negative" history is a major deciding factor if a flag can be shown, than not only the southern states would have to abandon their flag.

Very good points. Very good,

Submitted by PARKS2014-30 on

Very good points. Very good, indeed.

Thank you for pointing out

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-13 on

Thank you for pointing out how different flags exist throughout the world. This is a great analogy for viewing this topic. Additionally, I can appreciate that both positive and negative histories exist, and should be acknowledged to grow as a country and a society.

I really like how you pointed

Submitted by PARKS2014-24 on

I really like how you pointed out how many other flags there are around the world. So they should let them fly this flag because the Confederate flag, that's not really what it is a symbol of. It is a regional flag for the Southern States. But not emphasized too much.

They dont have to abandon the flag

Submitted by PARKS2014-01 on

It is not about abandoning a flag. It is all about offending people with a delicate issue such as racism. Maybe they do not mean racism at all and they just want to show their pride to be southern. However there will still exist the damage against black people because of the background of the flag. Also I believe that the pride does not need to be show to everybody and neither in the license plate. There are something that are just not needed.

I agree with you that it

Submitted by PARKS2014-32 on

I agree with you that it might be too much to print the Confederate flag twice in the license plates since it is a remaining debate. However, if not printed on a license plate, this symbol will still be around since it is the symbol of the Southern States. It means something and yes, it has its history with racism but this is not all of the flag's history.

Try to see it this way: The flag in its controversy draws attention to the history of the African-American history and thus, it reminds us of what happened and further, it reminds us that we have to do everything we can so that racism and discrimination will be fought in the future as well. It can be seen as a warning.

I think that confederate flag

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

I think that confederate flag shows that racism is still existing and people still hold that apart from it being in the history

I think that confederate flag

Submitted by PARKS2014-17 on

I think that confederate flag shows that racism is still existing and people still hold that apart from it being in the history

The symbolism of the

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-06 on

The symbolism of the confederate flag reminds many Americans of their country’s injustice and oppression of people, specifically the African Americans. There are some Americans who embrace this flag as a part of historical significance and the changes that have been made, and/or as the article states, “…to preserve their heritage”. Over the years Americans have defined what symbols are good and what are not. Apparently the confederate flag is considered ‘negative’ by most Americans. As I examine the money in my hand before I pay for a purchase, I notice George Washington, our first president and a slave owner, and there is Thomas Jefferson, America’s third president, also a slave owner. As I drive down the street I pass several buildings with crosses and wonder if these are K.K.K. buildings, since this particular organization burned crosses to intimidate African Americans. Not to mention the oppression that the cross symbolizes, by white man invading this very land, and taking from the Native Americans then forcing their religious beliefs on them as well as the African Americans. Perhaps ‘forcing’ is a strong word, I’ll rephrase this by referencing David R. Roediger’s book ‘How Race Survived U.S. History; A Nation stays White’. Roediger discusses how other minorities that were not considered white, such as Irish, Jews and Italians should begin to give up their ethnic foods, names and even associates, to ‘assimilate’ to the ‘accepted’ white dominant standards. Even though African Americans were not encouraged to ‘assimilate’ into white America they were called by their master’s last name, therefore over the years the surnames many African Americans have are reminders of their great-great-great grandparent’s oppression of whites, specifically southern whites. And relating back to the cross being symbolic of slavery, African Americans were not Christians when they were brought to this land. Many minorities had to ‘assimilate’ to the dominant practicing religion, losing their tribal customs and beliefs from their ancestral lands, or in the case of Native Americans due to their homeland being invaded.
There are so many more symbolic representations of oppression and social injustice all around us in America, yet many do not want to raise their awareness to these because these symbolic representations have ‘assimilated’ themselves into the ‘accepted’ American standards. Apparently the confederate flag will continually be debated on, as to what it represents, and one day it might just may be ‘assimilated’ or disappear like the names and religious beliefs of African Americans and Native Americans. Perhaps an extra-large confederate flag could be hung beside Mount Rushmore so when Americans and tourists alike look up at the grandeur of the four carved faces of previous presidents they can be reminded that two were slave owners, members of the dominant white class who wrote about ‘all men being equal’ but created a nation of tyranny and oppression. They had become the very thing they detested about their own homeland.

Confederate flag

Submitted by PARKS2014-02 on

The issue of licensing the flag is controversial given that it seems to segregate some sections of the society. There is a need for a constructive and inclusive debate on the issue in order to reach a consensus. Any intervention should respect individual and well as group rights as enshrined in the constitution.
It is only fair if all groups are given chance to celebrate symbols of heritage. The Whites should learn to appease other minority races because even the minority races have given up most of their symbols of heritage. There is no need of trying to give the Whites an upper hand over other races in order to satiate their ego. All people's contributions should be recognized and not just the contributions of the White. In the real sense, one wonders if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, they must have excluded minorities from the "equal" clause as evidenced by the flag. Jefferson and Washington wrote the declaration as they kept slaves. Today, America is divided due to the intent of the founders.

Confederate Flag

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-13 on

This is an interesting subject. The confederate flag is not a strong part of culture in Colorado, so I do not feel that I have a complete understanding of the symbol. I can understand wanting to show pride in heritage, but the confederate flag is associated with racism and injustice. I am interested in the deeper meaning of this organization and license plate which is so meaningful to Georgia residents. Oppositely, I can also see that honoring southern culture may be significant for many Americans. I could form a more concrete opinion with additional education on this topic.

The Sons of Confederate

Submitted by PARKS2014-30 on

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization of men who can trace there ancestry back to the Civil War and prove that they are descendant of men who fought for the South. They attend meetings and talk about the historical events pertaining to the Civil War and such. They also participate in festivals and re-enactments.

Racism is still alive

Submitted by PARKS2014-12 on

When people are asked if racism is still alive today in 2014, this pictures proves that it is. The fact that an entire state and other states have approved the license plate is offensive to black people. I like how Georgia officials tried to condone the fact of the license plate by saying they didn't want to offend peoples heritage. During the civil war, the confederate flag was a symbol of the south that wanted slave ownership to continue. So how does this license plate not represent racism.

But then again, maybe the

Submitted by PARKS2014-16 on

But then again, maybe the reason the sons of the confederate soldiers wanted this flag was with the pure intention of keeping their heritage. Perhaps all they wanted to do is be recognized as descendants of the soldiers who fought in the war, regardless of the racial aspect that comes with the flag.

I don't think that this is

Submitted by PARKS2014-25 on

I don't think that this is acceptable at all, but is it illegal?

Yes, the Confederate flag

Submitted by PARKS2014-06 on

Yes, the Confederate flag represents one of the most historically emotional times our country has ever faced. Tales from the civil war shows brother fighting against brother, and for the black population, they are reminded of their ancestors being enslaved. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans group is not trying to bring these emotions upon people while selling their license plate, but they are simply trying to raise money to educate people on the history of the Confederation.

The Civil War was one of the darkest times the United States has ever faced. I feel that it is important for people to be educated on the period, rather than repressing because of the emotions that are connotated with it.

The issue of the Confederate

Submitted by UCCSWEST-S2014-11 on

The issue of the Confederate flag is an interesting topic. On the one hand, I believe that everyone should has the freedom to express and support their heritage. On the other hand, I believe that allowing the Confederate flag on license plates will only stir up old issues that our country has already overcome, at least in some ways. Yes, each state has it's own flag, but that flag symbolizes the state as one of the collective 50 that make up our country. I believe for most, the Confederate flag is a negative symbol and will be offensive to the majority. I have German ancestry, but that doesn't mean I want to put a swastika symbol on my license plate. For those who practice Hinduism, the swastika is a symbol of peace and harmony and even in Hinduism, the swastika now has a negative connotation. Although the Confederate flag or the swastika symbol can have many meanings to different people, they both have one huge negative associated with them. I don't think that the Confederate flag should be allowed on a state's license plate because to me, it seems as though the state supports all that is associated with that flag. If multiple states begin to associate with Confederate ideas, this could possibly lead to bigger issues in the future for our country.

i agree with the comment in

Submitted by PARKS2014-09 on

i agree with the comment in the article that the flag is merely apart of the southern heritage and who are we to judge on how they express it. especially if that flag isnt even a symbol of racism. they just wish to honor those who fought for freedom, they are honoring those who fought then just like we honor those who fight now. its hypocritical for us to say that we cant honor those veterans based upon the propaganda behind it and say that we can support veterans today who fight in wars based upon similar things.

well then if it isn't illegal

Submitted by PARKS2014-25 on

well then if it isn't illegal, and it is a part of their southern heritage, then yes i agree with the comment above that states we shouldn't judge them on how they express it.

Just because something isn't

Submitted by PARKS2014-06 on

Just because something isn't illegal doesn't mean that doing it isn't wrong. Did you know that methamphetamine used to be legal?

How do you create laws or decide right from wrong if you write a set of rules beforehand? To decide what must be illegal people have to perform hazardous behavior that endangers themselves or others. Isn't that what the confederate flag is doing?

The confederate flag may not be illegal now, but that's not to say it won't be in the future, especially if people continue to stir up trouble by using the flag as a symbol.

I am not from this country

Submitted by PARKS2014-23 on

I am not from this country and I don't know exactly what this flag means or represents.
However, based on all your comments and what I read in the article, I believe that there is a limit of what should be put in a platte. If it is offensive to a certain group of people, it should not be allowed and it is their righr to protest against that decision.
If the flag somehow or indirectly represents a stand for slavery at a crucial time in the history of the country, so there is no way to not associate it with racism, as slavery only existed because of racism! It is two concepts that can't be apart.

The Confederate flag may be

Submitted by PARKS2014-30 on

The Confederate flag may be offensive to some people, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be allowed. Not allowing it would only be offensive to another group of people. Who do you not want to offend? If your goal is not to offend anyone, you will never succeed.

i agree with you. you cant

Submitted by PARKS2014-09 on

i agree with you. you cant please everyone and by taking the flag away you take away the symbolism of freedom and the veterans who fought in that war. people misjudge the flag and associate with slavery because that is what ignorant people made it out to be but that war wasnt even ultimately about slavery. people just said it was about slavery in order to build revenue to pay for the war. race is associated with the flag because it was during a time of slavery.