It’s what is in Your Heart That Counts

By Dr. Henry Flores, NewsTaco

I’ve been watching the current debate around whether the State of Texas should allow the confederate battle flag symbol to be imprinted on the state’s license plates.  Texas allows for over 400 different symbols to be printed on license plates including designations of which wars veterans have fought in among other statements.  I myself am a Disabled Vet and I have my Bronze Star imprinted on my plate.  But, now there is an initiative underway by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to have the confederate battle flag imprinted on the plate claiming that it is only an expression to venerate the sacrifices their ancestors made as they fought to protect their homeland against invaders from the north, the union army.

What does the Confederate Battle Flag Symbolize? 

The supporters of the proposal argue that the flag venerates the history of the defense of their ancestor’s homeland against invasion by union troops in the 19th Century.  That is an interesting interpretation of what has become known in American History as the Civil War.  This war was fought between a group of states who attempted to destroy the United States of America by seceding and declaring themselves a separate nation.  Under the law, this is an act of treason and for those of us who fought to honor our country this is an unforgiveable crime.

The supporters point out that the battle flag was flown in combat so that the soldiers of the south could tell the difference between which side they were fighting on.  This may be true and that certainly is the traditional reason guidons were flown by units in combat.  Still, it is the same symbol flown by racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan or various “skin head” or neo-Nazi organizations, organizations dedicated to racism, hatred and have histories of violence.

The confederate battle flag symbolizes groups in combat.  Is that the way the Sons of Confederate Veterans define their existence, they are in combat at the moment?  Combat against what?  Combat against the United States of America like their ancestors?  Combat against tolerance, inclusion, desegregation?  Why must they fly a combat flag?

The Symbol Imprinted on the License Plate 

The State of Texas offers individuals the privilege of printing some symbol or saying on their own license plate.  This originally started as vanity plates that represented an individual’s perception of themselves.  Then it spread to university logos so proud alums of the various state institutions could proclaim their allegiance to every motorist that followed them.  Then the privilege was extended to those who had some statement to make about the environment or blue bonnets or horned frogs.  Finally, the privilege was extended to those of us who earned disabilities serving our country in some war that most Americans knew little about or understood.  Some of us were even given the privilege of having certain symbols of some of the medals we were awarded emblazoned on our plates.  Of course, none of these imprints are free.  The state imposes fees for the imprinting privilege.

Now come the Sons of Confederate Veterans wanting to have the confederate battle flag emblazoned on the state license plate.  One only pays for the privilege because one has a statement to make.  The confederate battle flag symbolizes one thing to these individuals but something completely different to people of color and those who have suffered at the hands of racists and bigots historically.  The confederate battle flag symbolizes the belief that it is fine to discriminate against someone because of their color.  Those who wear it on their white robes use the battle flag as a symbol of intolerance against not just people of color but also against Jews, Catholics, gays and anyone who is not representative of “white privilege.”

The confederate battle flag should not be allowed to be imprinted on Texas or any other state’s license plates because it is offensive, represents belief systems that are anti-democratic and un-American and sends the wrong message to people from other countries.  And that message is that Texans specifically and Americans generally tolerate bigotry and racism of the sort represented by the confederate battle flag.

[Image courtesy of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles]

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