Another skirmish over the Confederate flag is brewing in the South, this time in Georgia as the state released a new specialty license tag prominently featuring the Confederate battle emblem, predictably prompting outrage and dismay in the African-American community.
But supporters of the flag believe it honors Confederate heritage and is not a celebration of racial oppression.
Ray McBerry, spokesman for the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said people have a right to commemorate their heritage, and the state would be discriminating if it rejected the group’s application.
“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.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal danced around the controversy yesterday by telling reporters he didn’t know anything about the new plates.
“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, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which pointed out that last month Deal vowed to a Ebenezer Baptist Church congregation that he would give Martin Luther King Jr. a more prominent place on state Capitol grounds.
According to Georgia law, the state’s motor vehicle agency must use discretion when it comes to racially sensitive matters and must deny any vanity plates that ridicule any race or ethnicity.
In 2012, a controversy erupted when the state denied a request by the Ku Klux Klan to “adopt” a Georgia highway, prompting a lawsuit from the KKK.
Georgia already had a plate commemorating the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The new one places the St. Andrew’s flag in the background across the entire tag and adds the organization’s name across the bottom of the tag, where the name of the issuing county typically appears, in addition to the group’s logo.
There were 439 plates sold over the last two years, while the new version has 35 orders in the pipeline at a cost of $80, according to the state Revenue Department.