First, as news reports have pointed out, the SCV for years has had a specialty tag that included a small Confederate flag with no fuss about it. It apparently was low-key enough to escape serious opposition. But the new version is drawing fire from at least one group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which labeled the tag design “reprehensible.”
The new version has a small replica of the flag in the SCV logo plus a faint background image of the flag stretching from one side of the plate to the other. And “Sons of Confederate Veterans” appears at the bottom instead of a county name.
The Department of Motor Vehicles changed the format of the license plate, SCV spokesman Ray McBerry said. “They asked us to present to them a new layout, a new design, for the plate for our organization as they’ve done with all of the other nonprofit organizations that have specialty plates in Georgia,” he said. The DMV then approved the new design.
“You choose to have the plate if you want it,” he told Fox News Radio. “It’s voluntary. No one’s going to have it forced upon them.” By approving the SCV plate, the state agency was “not saying they agree with our organization,” McBerry told a reporter. “They’re just saying it’s a level playing field.”
The problem is that some people are offended by the flag for two reasons: 1. the banner was used as a battle flag by Confederate forces and per se stands for slavery and racism and all that was wrong with the pre-Civil War South. 2. the battle flag was appropriated by the Ku Klux Klan after the war and by other violent racists during the civil rights movement and symbolized racial hatred and bigotry.
On the other side of the issue, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and who knows how many other Southerners look on the flag simply as part of their heritage. SCV’s McBerry said, “We believe that everyone has the right to preserve their heritage. Southerners have as much right to be proud of their heritage as anybody else.”
Yes — but that heritage includes slavery, oppression and discrimination against black people — as well as defense of the constitutional guarantee of state rights that played a prominent role in secession and the war. These are inextricably bound together. The seceding states believed that they, and not the federal government, had the right to determine what to do about slavery. The truth is the war was about both state rights and slavery. It’s also true that Confederate soldiers believed they were fighting for a just cause — defending their homeland against Northern aggression.
We can be proud of our Southern heritage of patriotism, graciousness, hospitality and many other things. The rest of our Southern heritage, including that flag, is gone with the wind.