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Texas: The rebel yell is better silenced

October 25, 2011 |  2:39 pm

Confederate

With Texas the latest state aiming to fight the Civil War all over again by mounting the Confederate battle flag in public spaces, I thought it would be interesting to find out how many of the nine members of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board are African American. The answer: none.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans wants the state to issue license plates emblazoned with the Confederate flag. That's nothing new; such specialty plates already exist in several Southern states, spreading anger and controversy with them. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is ostensibly a heritage organization dedicated to memorializing the South's Civil War dead, but it is increasingly working to boost public acceptance of the flag and other symbols of the Confederacy. The impact is similar to what might happen if a group of modern Germans tried to honor their nation's World War II dead by putting swastikas on BMWs.

What the Sons of the Confederate Veterans have trouble grasping is that the South fought the Civil War not to preserve "liberty and freedom," as the group claims on its website, but to protect the institution of slavery. That's the obvious reason why black Americans are deeply offended by displays of the Confederate flag. Not every Confederate soldier was a racist and not every Union soldier was an abolitionist, but it's not very hard for a modern observer, free of the biases and financial imperatives that drove a wedge between the states in the 19th century, to judge which side had the moral high ground. Celebrating the symbols of a dead regime that was created to uphold human bondage isn't a great idea for anybody of any race, and denying history won't pave the way to a better future.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is getting heat because his family's hunting camp was called "Niggerhead," but that's just an embarrassment for Perry; if the Motor Vehicles board approves a Confederate license plate, it will be an embarrassment for the entire state. The board deadlocked in a 4-4 vote on the plate earlier this year, when one member was absent. A check of the DMV's website shows that of the nine board members, two are Latino, two are white women and the rest are white men. If the board had any black members, the contest would probably be less close. And that's another good reason for the board to practice a little sensitivity.

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-- Dan Turner

Photo: The proposed Sons of Confederate Veterans specialty plate. Credit: Texas Department of Motor Vehicles

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