Confederate License Plates
November 11, 2011 by staff
Confederate License Plates, Just weeks after Gov. Rick Perry expressed opposition to putting an image of the Confederate battle flag on specialty Texas license plates, his appointees on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles unanimously rejected the proposal Thursday.
Passions ran high as dozens of Texans, mostly African-Americans, told the board that the Confederate flag represents – for them – bndage, brutality and fear. And they reminded Perry’s appointees that hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, use the rebel Confederate flag to promote their ideology.
Texans need to rally around unifying themes, they said. At one point, U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, unfurled a new U.S. flag as a couple of hundred people attending the hearing quickly stood and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Green said he wanted to underscore the importance of standing united and embracing popular symbols of patriotism while fighting against divisive images.
Putting the iconic Confederate battle flag on state-issued license plates, he and others warned, would reopen old, painful scars and possibly trigger violence.
Longtime Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe and others appealed to the board not to sanction a symbol that represents such a dark period of American history for so many people.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans said they simply want to commemorate their ancestors who responded to the call of duty and carried the flag on Civil War battlefields.
From 4-4 to unanimous
The specialty license plates also would raise money for the group that could be used to help restore old Civil War maps and documents, said Granvel Block, Texas division commander for the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The group likely will file a lawsuit, Block said.
“I don’t see any obstacles for us moving forward with getting our plates as we rightfully should have them,” he said. “Most of what they were saying in there was drummed up out of the movies someplace.”
The Department of Motor Vehicles Board deadlocked, 4-4, when the Confederate license application first came up in April.
Perry had remained silent on the controversy until telling reporters in Florida two weeks ago that he opposes putting the image on state license plates.
“That’s just a part of history that you don’t need to scrape that wound again,” Perry said.
All nine members on the Department of Motor Vehicles board are Perry appointees. None is an African-American. The board apparently responded to the governor’s signal, voting unanimously to reject the application without discussion.
The result did not surprise Block considering “all the rhetoric and emotion.”
“We were not the ones scraping old wounds,” Block said. “We were quietly asking for these plates and everyone else was doing the hollering. Not us.”
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who supports the Confederate license plate, suggested that opponents needed “to get a grip.”
The history of lynching of African-Americans and racist overtones with the Confederate flag make it too divisive for African-Americans “to get a grip or to get over it,” said the Rev. A. W. Mays, senior pastor at Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Austin told the board.
Patterson and his agency sponsored the confederate plate application. Patterson told the board the license plate would “commemorate the soldiers, not the politicians.”
“What we are doing is dummying down history by saying if it’s Southern, it’s bad,” Patterson said. “It is not as simple as we try to make it.”
Nine other states have sanctioned the use of Confederate license plates and the leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans predicted that Texas, like three others, would win a court ruling to allow the plates.
Buffalo Soldiers OK’d
The board later approved a specialty license plate for the Buffalo Soldiers, all-black Army units created in the 1800s.
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, applauded the action.
“The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, to which revenue from the specialty plates will be distributed, is a wonderful institution in my Senate district,” Ellis said. “I have personally toured the facility with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and it fulfills its mission well: preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier.”
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