Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Coming to a Farm-to-Market Road Near You. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 24, 2011

The SCV in Texas is looking to have the state issue commemorative license plates with the organization’s logo on it. This seems to be part of a larger effort across the country to raise the visibility of the organization, as we’ve seen in other states.

As with the proposed Mississippi plate honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest, I think there’s a better way to approach this, that’s less likely to get the usual suspects riled up. But I suspect also that the SCV isn’t so much interested in that, as in finding another way to plaster the Confederate Battle Flag all over the place, and slap a “heritage, not hate” frame around it. (Maybe it could go with a companion piece that insults people who find the CBF offensive, too.) I suspect the appeal of an SCV license plate, like the flag itself, is as much about belligerence as about “education.” And if the point is “to remember Texans who died fighting in the Civil War,” why does it need an SCV logo at all?

Still, I’m torn. If people want to fly a CBF from their house, fine, whatever — but a license plate is an official document, issued by the state government. It comes very close, I think, to being an official state endorsement of the group, which (I’m sure) is an angle not lost on the plate’s backers. In that way, it’s much more akin to flying the Battle Flag from a public building, which I find inappropriate, than (say) a bumper sticker would be. Given all the ways there are to honor one’s Confederate ancestors — individually and specifically — slapping an SCV license plate on one’s car seems more like flashy historical exhibitionism than respectful recognition.

Your mileage may vary.

4 Responses

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  1. jeff bell said, on June 24, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    What these southern states should be commemorating is FDR – his New-Deal and CCC brought millions of southerners out of poverty – white and black – where they had been firmly entrenched since the end of the CW. Southern folk are a proud and stubborn lot though and I expect to see this type of debate go on for quite a while. Perhaps a license plate commemorating the Plantation Owners and Politicos who stirred up public sentiment against the north to protect their vast interests – remember, Lincoln’s name wasn’t even on the ballot in the South in the election of 1860.

  2. Margaret Blough said, on June 25, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Andy-The big problem is the whole vanity license plate thing (which police hate because it makes many license plates hard to read and even harder to determine the state of origin). Once states allowed private organizations to sponsor license plates, thus creating a public forum, it created First Amendment issues in turning down organizations for content for any grounds other than obscenity. Content based restrictions must meet strict scrutiny in First Amendment law which is next to impossible to meet. The best response would be going back to the days of a single state-mandated license plate but, even with all the problems, I don’t see the states giving up the revenue.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 25, 2011 at 9:28 am

      This plate isn’t about honoring Confederate soldiers; there are plenty of other ways to do that.

      It’s about promoting the SCV. Period, full stop.

      • Margaret Blough said, on June 25, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        Andy-It’s still a First Amendment issue either way as states who have tried to block SCV drives for license plates have found out the hard way in court. At times, I think the SCV WANTS states to resist so it can use it to get publicity and feed martyr complexes. It’s a state-created issue. They got greedy and/or didn’t think it through. This is a door that once a state opens, it loses most control. Same problem has occurred with adopt-a-highway programs when Klan chapters have applied to adopt portions of highways.

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