Texas and South Carolina Take Two Very Different Views of the Confederate Flag

We have seen that South Carolina Republicans refuse to take down the Confederate flag flying over the state capitol, in the wake of a hate crime in which the accused murderer proudly sported the “Stars and Bars” on his car’s plates.

This morning, according to Charleston’s The Post and Courier, the U.S. and State flags at the statehouse are at half mast but the Confederate flag is not.

Writes The Post and Courier’s Schuyler Kropf:

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.”

Many Americans find this state of affairs outrageous. Others are outraged at the suggestion that the old Stars and Bars should be an offense to anyone. It is a symbol of their heritage, they say.

And then there is Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who told CBN’s The Brody File in May that a tolerant society should be tolerant of intolerance:

A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs. This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.

The Supreme Court seems to disagree in another case involving the Confederate flag, one that finds Americans United for Separation of Church and State defending use of the Confederate flag as free speech.

In a press release yesterday, Americans United took issue with a 5-4 SCOTUS ruling, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., that says states can regulate the content of vanity plates. Justice Alito, Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia and Kennedy, dissented.

In the Texas case, the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) wanted “a plate depicting the Confederate flag on the ground” but, surprisingly, the state ruled that “many members of the general public find [it] offensive.”

NPR summarized the arguments pro and con thusly:

“Why should we as Texans want to be reminded of a legalized system of involuntary servitude, dehumanization, rape, mass murder?” asked state Sen. Royce West at a public hearing about the plates in 2011.

But Granvel Block, a former commander of the SCV, defended the proposed plate, countering that expecting the group to delete the image of the flag would be “as unreasonable” as expecting the University of Texas to remove its logo from a plate “because Texas A&M graduates didn’t care for it.”

Of course, this is not a fair comparison. Despite the shockingly high incidence of rape on college campuses (one out of five co-eds), the University of Texas cannot be compared to the Confederate States of America, which institutionalized slavery and defended it by waging the bloodiest war in American history.

The view of the State of Texas was, in the words of Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell, “The plaintiffs have every right to festoon their cars with bumper stickers or other images that display the Confederate battle flag, but they can’t compel the state of Texas to propagate the Confederate battle flag by displaying it on state-issued license plates.”

And this is the point of view the Supreme Court took, “that messages that private groups succeed in placing on Texas license plates are government messages.”

The SCOTUS decision might cheer some, but as AU’s Rev. Barry W. Lynn points out with regard to the Texas case, “Speech that some people deem ‘offensive’ is still protected speech,” and that “Today’s ruling could make it harder for members of some groups, such as unpopular religions and atheists, to use license plates to express messages.”

Lynn cites the example of a New Jersey woman whose request for 8THEIST “was rejected by officials at the Motor Vehicle Commission – even though even though the state allows plates bearing religious messages, such as “BAPTIST.”

Obviously, the Religious Right is offended by atheism, and many people are offended by the Confederate flag as a symbol of slavery and continued racism.

Justice Alito, in his dissenting opinion, writes,

The Confederate battle flag is a controversial symbol. To the Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans, it is said to evoke the memory of their ancestors and other soldiers who fought for the South in the Civil War. See id., at 15- 16. To others, it symbolizes slavery, segregation, and hatred. Whatever it means to motorists who display that symbol and to those who see it, the flag expresses a viewpoint. The Board rejected the plate design because it concluded that many Texans would find the flag symbol offensive. That was pure viewpoint discrimination.

AU agrees: vanity plates are private speech and should be protected. Should flags then also be protected, if the image of flags are?

Bush claims a tolerant country should tolerate intolerance. But if a country tolerates intolerance, it is by definition not a tolerant country. It is an intolerant country.

What is interesting is that the Religious Right wants to be intolerant. Yet they don’t want people to be intolerant of them. Logically, this does not work at all. If intolerance is permitted, then people certainly have a right to be intolerant of the Religious Right.

You can’t have it both ways.

Of course there is a difference between actions and words, but don’t start jumping up and down yet: it is recognized that even speech can be a form of violence.

It is not easy to say where to draw the line.

What about other symbols? The swastika seems an easy choice, but it was a holy symbol to many religions and to millions before it was turned into a symbol of hate this past century. Or how about the cross, under the sign of which so many millions have been put to death?

The irony of symbolism in Charleston is that it was while under the sign of the cross that nine blacks were murdered, the same cross that for so long was used to uphold “the South’s peculiar institution” – slavery – and to stand beside the symbol of the nation founded on that institution, and now embraced by their killer – the Confederate flag.

Ben Franklin once said, about the murder of a group of Native Americans this time, not blacks, during worship, by the “Paxton Boys” in 1763, that the only crime of which the victims were guilty was that “they had reddish brown Skin, and back Hair,” like the Indians raiding the frontier.

“If it be right to kill Men for such a Reason, then should any Man with a freckled Face and red Hair, kill a Wife or Child of mine, it would be right for me to revenge it, by killing all the freckled, red-haired Men, Women, and Children, I could afterwards anywhere meet with.”

Most of us would call this use of collective guilt a form of intolerance and something more, and throughout U.S. history collective guilt has been unfairly apportioned. If a black person kills somebody, all blacks become suspect. White people get a pass.

We cannot say then that everyone who embraces the Confederate flag is a killer, but we could certainly question their sensibilities in the light of recent events. It may represent your ancestors, but remember what your ancestors were fighting for as it flew over their heads – the right to enslave blacks – to rape, murder, torture, and work them to death.

A tolerant society cannot be tolerant of intolerance. The day it becomes so is the day it ceases to be a tolerant society. The Confederate flag is a symbol of intolerance. I would argue that the fact that some southerners still embrace it is no more a defense than saying some Nazis still embrace the Nazi flag.

A defense might be made in the case of private speech as speech protected by the First Amendment, as AU argues, but the state itself should neither embrace nor display symbols of hate. If a flag symbol on a license plate isn’t protected speech, as SCOTUS ruled, then neither is a flag flying atop a capitol.

I don’t think anyone can argue that the flag flying over South Carolina’s capitol is a form of private speech, but rather, at this point, a defiant support by the state for, and embrace of, levels of intolerance that fuels the state’s 19 hate groups, including six neo-Confederate groups.

Jeb Bush is wrong. But this morning he gets his way. For all that it is perfectly legal, flying that flag – a symbol of intolerance and worse – this morning of all mornings, goes beyond poor taste. It is wrong. And it is an outrage.

37 Replies to “Texas and South Carolina Take Two Very Different Views of the Confederate Flag”

  1. I have been searching EBay to find a reasonably-priced, 1850 calendar, so that I can negotiate time when I visit South Carolina next month.

  2. What I see is the Confederate Flag being displayed above the American civil Flag. Yet another display of the inherent Treasonous attitude of the Southerners.

  3. But the ignorant governor Nikki said it was O.K. to fly the flag because not one CEO she had talked with when recruiting businesses even brought it up.

    Probably because they thought the civil war was over.

    So now she gets all teary eyed over the murder of 9 innocent, good people by a white racist who is very much invested in the hate this flag represents.

    Get a grip, you hypocrit governor, if you represent all the people of your state, the flag goes.

  4. This is an important point that’s largely been overlooked, Moongrim. While comparatively few of the confederates who fought and died for this flag actually owned slaves, and while some who fought for it may not have been racists, every last confederate who took up arms under this flag was a traitor, and anyone who still worships it is worshiping treason.

  5. I just learned that there are 2 confederate flags. The flag of the Confederate States of America and the Confederate battle flag.

    Guess which one we have been talking about?

    The battle flag was even rejected by the Daughters of the Confederacy.

  6. …”Jeb Bush is wrong. But this morning he gets his way. For all that it is perfectly legal, flying that flag – a symbol of intolerance and worse” …

    I hope that people remember this action and reject Jeb Bush from the primaries.

  7. “Six flags over Texas” is the slogan used to describe the six countries that have had sovereignty over some or all of the current territory of the U.S. state of Texas: Spain (1519–1821), France (1685–1690), Mexico (1821–1836), the Republic of Texas (1836–1845), the Confederate States of America (1861–1865), and the United States of America (1845–1861; 1865–present).

    I can’t find the same information on SIX FLAGS OVER VALENCIA here in Los Angeles.

    The next time I go thru Santa Claria, I’ll take a look.

  8. Just don’t try it in Georgia. They ain’t tolerant of outsiders with tolerant attitudes there. That and they got bills to pay and won’t raise taxes because “Ronald Reagan is Gawd!”

  9. “You know, the Confederate flag is just a symbol of States’ Rights.

    Yeah, and a swastika is just a Tibetan good luck charm.”

    -Robin Williams

  10. The flag yall are talking about IS NOT the confederate flag. That is the Battle Flag of the Confederacy. The confederate flag looks similar to the US flag, but has only 3 stripes, 2 red, 1 white, an indigo square in the upper left corner with a circle of stars representing the confederate states.
    Also, while it is true that if there had been no slavery there would have been no war, the civil war was not fought over slavery alone. There were many political, economic and personal issues at stake.
    On a side note Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves, while Robert E. Lee owned none.
    Also the first person in America to own slaves was a black man. Anthony Johnson had 3 servants 2 white and 1 black.

  11. You are a fuking liar
    The Private Thoughts of Robert E. Lee

    What were Lee’s real feelings about the Confederacy and slavery?
    What were his views on slavery?

    These papers are filled with information about slavery. This is not something you have to read between the lines; Lee really tells us how he feels. He saw slaves as property, that he owned them and their labor. Now you can say he wasn’t worse than anyone; he was reflecting the values of the society that he lived in. I would say, he wasn’t any better than anyone else, either.

    Presidents Who Owned Slaves

    The last president who ever owned slaves was, ironically, Ulysses S. Grant, elected in 1868 after he had commanded Union forces to victory over the Confederacy in the war that led to the abolition of slavery. Grant owned a slave named William Jones, whom he freed in 1859.

  12. That design means what I think it means. Tap dancing details doesn’t change the iconic meaning.

    Sordid vile paternalism fueled and abetted by a perverse conqueror’s religion.

    Put it down and walk away. you’ll feel better.

  13. Also the first person in America to own slaves was a black man. Anthony Johnson
    Many historians describe indentured servant John Punch as the first documented slave in America, as he was sentenced to life in servitude as punishment for escaping in 1640. Not John Casor a black indentured servant whose contract Johnson appeared to have bought in the early 1640s

  14. The Flag used by Six Flags is the “Stars and Bars” the original CSA flag which never became a symbol of hate. The flag being used here is the “Southern Cross” or “Rebel Flag”. The two look completely different and most people have no problem with the “Stars and Bars”.

  15. two points:

    1-the SC Confederate flag can’t be lowered, because it is not on a rope, like most flags are. It’s fixed in place
    2- the flag is on a pole at the Confederate Soldiers’ memorial.

    But, as our President said, it’s time to put that flag in a museum. Take it down, Nikki….

  16. The governor is showing her resistance to Federal authority and its Constitutional protections.

    Which are designed to protect residents from wannabe tyrant governors.

    No Fed, no constitution, no rights. just permission. Maybe. Depends on how Her Highness feels that day.

  17. every last confederate who took up arms under this flag was a traitor
    Oh, please.

    While slavery was a major factor in the economic and political factors that brought the war about, once the military campaign started the recruits were joining up to defend their homes and families from an invading military force. The VAST majority of soldiers -and I mean privates, corporals, sergeants- were not people that had any stake in the economic system that the upper crust elite were trying to protect.
    Most of them were simple people who lived on small farms or in small towns and did not have the ideological understanding of what the events taking place were all about.

    “The Yankees are coming with an Army! They took Cousin Joe’s farm 50 miles up the road and they are headed this way with cannons and cavalry!” This is what they were thinking.
    Not “I better join up or these blacks are gonna be free!”

    The history is much more complex.

  18. While you make a good point I think what azportsider is saying if you took up arms against the legally elected government of the US then you are a traitor
    Article III
    Section 3.

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

    The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

  19. if you took up arms against the legally elected government of the US then you are a traitor
    Under that definition, then George Washington could be viewed as a “traitor”.

    Not all revolutionaries are labeled as traitors. The charge of “traitor” depends upon which side wins.

  20. Us publikly- skooled ne’er-do-very-much-at-all sorts were taught Washington was hero.

    See how that works?

  21. So are you saying that if the south had won they would be heroes in your book for upholding the institution of slavery?

  22. So are you saying that if the south had won they would be heroes in your book for upholding the institution of slavery?

    No, silly. If the Civil War had ended other than how it did— or if the federal government and the northern states decided to pursue a negotiated separation from the South— and if I lived in the Confederate States of America – I most certainly would not have been taught that the Confederate Army were traitors.
    It’s impossible to know what the USA and the CSA (and the world) would look like after an alternate history. Too many variables over too much time.

  23. I don’t have time to watch a movie for an hour and a half, but….

    I do have the feeling the National Association for the Advancement of Southern People are going to be up your ass.


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