Houston- Texas officials cannot block the sale of a vanity license plate that features an image of the Confederate battle flag, a federal appeals court in New Orleans has ruled.
The decision could reopen old arguments and wounds plus signal the rise and rebirth of the ways of the Old South, according to several Black leaders.
Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) released a statement in response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit split decision ruling that Texas must issue Confederate battle flag license plates:
“I’m extremely disappointed that the state of Texas has been ordered to issue license plates with the Confederate battle flag,” Ellis said. “The battle flag is a symbol of Ku Klux Klan repression and violence, not heritage. After all, the battle flag never flew over the Texas Capitol and is not one of the Six Flags of Texas. It was instead adopted by the Klan and segregationists as their symbol of hate and opposition to civil rights and equality in the South. This is not a symbol that is worthy of the state’s honor.“
Ellis is urging Attorney General Abbott to immediately appeal this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court so that Texas is not put in the position of issuing state-sanctioned license plates glorifying oppression and bigotry.
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Texas court’s ruling against the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which sought to have Texas issue a specialty license plate that featured a Confederate flag logo.
The court found the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board violated the free speech rights the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans when it voted against creating the plate amid outcry from citizens who felt the Confederate flag is racist imagery.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans contend the flag image celebrates Southern history and pled their right to freedom of speech for justifying having the plate.
According to the Sons of Confederate Veterans website, the SCV represents the citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy and personified the best qualities of America.
The preservation of liberty and freedom was the motivating factor in the South’s decision to fight the Second American Revolution.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans is preserving the history and legacy of these heroes, so future generations can understand the motives that animated the Southern Cause.
The SCV is the direct heir of the United Confederate Veterans, and the oldest hereditary organization for male descendants of Confederate soldiers.
Organized at Richmond, Virginia in 1896, the SCV continues to serve as a historical, patriotic, and non-political organization dedicated to insuring that a true history of the 1861-1865 period is preserved.
“The question is knowing what we know, why do we keep allowing this to foster in America,” said former Texas State University Chancellor and famed Civil Rights Attorney Dr. James M. Douglas. “These men are not heroes and should not be celebrated. The whole Confederate Army was a group of Terrorists. They seceded from the Union and declared war on America. How American is that?
According to Douglas, history bears record that those supporting the confederacy supported the brutal dehumanization of African Blacks and took advantage of slave trading and free labor slavery on American plantations throughout the South, including Texas.
He also noted that the courts are not compassionate or impartial about American history and the treatment of Black in this country.
“This is huge because it lets us know where the mindset of White America is and points to how far right the court system and judges really are,” he said. “We must wake up as a people and understand that the same courts and laws have supported White plantation owners since Dred Scott Decision and continue to protect the rights of Whites, even if it infringes or steps on African-Americans.”
History also demonstrates a broader view of what the flag really stands for.
Dr. Mtangulizi Sanyika, longtime social activist and former Professor of Political Science and of African World Studies, said the court decision is not only wrong, but also unfortunate and sends the wrong message on free speech in a democracy.
“This is an abominable symbol that is repugnant and perpetuates hatred, the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy and is inappropriate in a civilized democracy,” Sanyika said. “I call on all right thinkers in our society to oppose this and condemn this decision.”
Sanyika said the very existence and nature of those pushing and supporting the license plate demonstrates their ultimate motives.
“The history of the confederacy is a history that represents a time of injustice, slavery and inhumanity to man and there is nothing redeeming about that,” he said. “It also clearly is a visual means to promoting slavery, White Supremacy, racial segregation and dehumanization – things that today are fundamentally divisive and opposes true civilized democracy in this country.”
National Advancement for Advancement of Colored People State Emeritus Howard Jefferson said the ruling plays to the SCV and endorses and promotes a history of discrimination.
“This is insulting to African-Americans and the plate will be a constant reminder of hanging, slavery and discrimination and all things bad,” Jefferson said. “It is clear statement that these people are proud of promoting racism and what happened to Black Americans and says, “we are not ashamed of the atrocities”.”
According to Jefferson and other freedom fighters, the ultra-right attitudes have been emboldened by court rulings that turn back the clock on civil rights.
“We are not living in a Euro-White Democracy,” Sanyika said. “This is a multi-racial Democracy and it is time to teach our youth across America that the Confederate Flag and its symbols and history are hateful, divisive, racist and promote something we all need to object to.”
The issue may not be settled and still could reach the justices at the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.