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New Confederate license plate brings skirmishes

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Updated: 2/19 11:21 am
By Craig Schneider

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The state of Georgia has released a new specialty license tag that features the Confederate battle flag, inflaming civil rights advocates and renewing a debate on what images should appear on state-issued materials.

The new specialty tag has stirred a clash between those who believe the battle flag honors Confederate heritage and those, particularly African-Americans, who view it as a racially charged symbol of oppression.

A spokesman for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said Tuesday that the state should not have sanctioned the battle emblem to appear on a Georgia tag.

“To display this is reprehensible,” said Maynard Eaton. “We don’t have license plates saying ‘Black Power.’”

For their part, the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said it meant no offense. People have a right to commemorate their heritage, and the state would be discriminating if it rejected the group’s application, said spokesman Ray McBerry.

“By sanctioning the plate, they are not saying they agree with our organization. They’re just saying it’s a level playing field,” he said.

The Motor Vehicle Division of the state Department of Revenue, approves proposed designs for specialty plates. It did not respond to questions from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about what criteria it uses in making those determinations, except to say, via email, that they cannot violate copyright laws.

Gov. Nathan Deal said the new tag was a surprise to him.

“I hadn’t heard that so I don’t know anything about it. I’ll have to talk to them about it. I had no information in advance about it,” said Deal, who last month vowed to a Ebenezer Baptist Church congregation that he would give Martin Luther King Jr. a more prominent place on state Capitol grounds.

In a related context — applications for vanity plates submitted by individuals — Georgia law charges the motor vehicle agency with exercising discretion when it comes to racially sensitive matters. The law prohibits vanity plates judged to ridicule any race or ethnicity.

The state also denied a 2012 request by a Ku Klux Klan chapter to “adopt” a highway in north Georgia to help clean it. The chapter then sued the state.

The new Confederate flag plate replaces one that was already in circulation. The new design places the St. Andrew’s flag in the background across the entire tag. Like the old plate, it also features the flag in the square logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It adds the organization’s name across the bottom of the tag, where the name of the issuing county typically appears.

The state sold a total of 439 of the earlier version in the last two years. There are 35 orders already for the new tag, according to the Revenue Department.

The cost of the tag is $80. Ten dollars from the fee goes to the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group said it uses the money to promote education efforts and preservation of statues, monuments and other historic items.

Passions aroused by the Confederate flag remain a potent force in Georgia politics. When Gov. Roy Barnes brought down the 1956 state flag, which had the emblem as its centerpiece, the backlash contributed to Sonny Perdue’s surprise election as governor.

Elsewhere, states that joined the Confederacy have taken different postures in regard to the symbol. North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi have specialty license tags that include it. Texas’ rejected an application to issue one, on the grounds that it would offend many residents.

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued board members of the Texas motor vehicle agency, and the case remains in the courts.

McBerry, of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was unfazed by the renewed controversy over the battle flag. “We believe that everyone has the right to preserve their heritage,” he said. “Southerners have as much right to be proud of their heritage as anybody else.”

Eaton, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said issuance of the tag confirms his belief that the state government is indifferent to the 31 percent of residents who are black.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he said.
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king kaos - 2/19/2014 4:20 PM
0 Votes
The problem is simple. afreakants dont understand society or what it means to be part of an advanced culture. they were very recently as far as history is concerned, pulled from the jungles by thier own kind, they were enslaved or sold to spanish slave traders who brought them to the americas to resell. they have not had time, as the thousands of years that the Europeans have had, to get to a educated and advanced culture. they have not evolved past the kill or be killed, take what you want not what you work for society. they are a few hundred years out of the jungle, and we bought them and then were forced to set them free in a land and with a lifestyle they simply dont understand. They see a Confederate flag, dont like it an automatically, even instinctually ATTACK. They have no idea what civilization actually means, what is expected of a "succesful prosperous citizen of a advanced culture" and we are wrong for expecting them too. Look into thier eyes, the lights not on in many cases, its a tribal, preman look. A combination of fear and wonder, they dont know what is going on and cant get a hold of thier surrowdings and it makes them insane, rampage if you will. So on one hand they are correct in blaming "us" for all of thier issues. We should have taken the freed people and immediately returned them to thier afreakan home, like Liberia. So we did with many but others CHOOSE to stay and now 200 years later, they have forgotten all of that. Most just know that they cannot live in this society, its not thiers and its not right for them. They are expected to be productive, to help and not hinder and it simply doesnt compute. We are not the same, there are diseases and sicknesses and ways of thinking and acting that are very unique and specific to afreakans. Read the studies, do the research. Its not racist, its facts but again you will be attacked becasue of the lack of understanding. Tell your dog to cook dinner tonight, when he screws it ask why. same thing folks

nativejax - 2/19/2014 1:47 PM
0 Votes
Pretty well said, Realchang, except there is one 'place' that destroys our U.S. flag, the middle east. They are silently trying to have it removed permanently as we speak. And Obama is right in on it.

Realchange - 2/19/2014 1:35 PM
3 Votes
Why do black people endorse African countries and never give them any grief? Most the slaves sold and were slavery is most rampant today is Africa. Yes slavery is wrong. Also just as wrong is forcing people to accept the "official" black version of events. Not every Confederate solider owned slaves in fact many did not own slaves was to costly and they recognized it as being wrong. The North made policy and demanded the South follow through or else. The war was not to end slavery as widely publically believed. It was to prevent the South from becoming a Southern United Confederacy separate from the Northern United States. It is interesting to note when the South won the first battles in the War and Northern cities lay under their control they did not burn women and children out their home. Yet in order to win the war with the South the North did what we would consider serious war crimes today. Destroying homes with the advent of winter coming on to force men to choose between the war front or saving their wives and children. Also contrary to popular history the Union soldiers did rape, pillage, and loot as well. So maybe we should demand the US flag be taken down as well ? After all we have see it flown when Indians were massacred where the government refused to honor its treaties. We have seen it flown where Japanese Americans were interned losing all their goods with no just cause, meanwhile German American spies sabotaged many war effort yet no internment camps for them. We have seen a country where in world war 2 hung Germans for crimes against humanity but on the same page turned around and bought bio warfare information from a Japanese war crimes criminal who did far worse. Blacks seem to think they are the only people ever wronged by a flag. American Flag has just as man war crimes committed while it was flying yet there is no out cry to remove it. Read your history and understand propaganda when you see it.

z00my1 - 2/19/2014 12:30 PM
2 Votes
It's a part of history! People need to get over themselves! This country will never move forward if we don't STOP looking at "HISTORY" as being "SLAP IN THE FACE"!If the negativity were taken away from "HISTORY" maybe OUR children would better understand the lessons that the past have taught us. Our Fore-fathers were the suffers and worked very hard to create a country with harmony.Should we take that away from them? I think NOT!!
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