The Associated Press is reporting that when the NAACP stepped up a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South, it found an opponent in Republican Tea Party (GOTP) presidential contender Reverend Ricky Perry.
Wow, who’d have ever thunk it; Ricky Perry defending Confederate symbols. What’s the world coming to when a good old boy red neck evangelical Christian from Texas is defending Confederate symbols?
It seems Texas had a pair of bronze plaques with symbols of the Confederacy displayed in its state Supreme Court building. The Reverend, then lieutenant governor, said they should stay put, arguing that Texans “should never forget our history.”
And later, when he became Governor, he said on a number of occasions that Texas should secede from the Union.
Perry has repeatedly defended “state’s rights” and Texas’ legacy in the Civil War, however – as the AP points out – while defense of Confederate symbols and Southern institutions can still be good politics below the Mason-Dixon Line, the subject can appear in a different light when officials seek national office.
But this is not the only albatross hanging around the GOTP presidential hopefuls’ neck; last week he began taking fire for a rock outside the Texas hunting camp his family used to lease that had the name “Niggerhead” painted on it, and GOTP rival Herman Cain, the only black in the conservative race, says the rock symbolizes Perry’s insensitivity to race.
And just in time for this falls race, Texas will soon be deciding whether to allow specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag as part of the commemoration of the Civil Wars sesquicentennial. The plates were requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nonprofit organization the Reverend has supported time and time again.
“The romanticism around the Old South,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington Bureau. “It’s a view of history that ignores how racism became a tool to maintain a system of supremacy and dominance.”
Granvel Block, the Texas Division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the organization appreciated Perry’s previous position on issues surrounding memorializing the Confederacy.
“I would give him high praise for saying it,” Block said. “Honoring your ancestors, it’s something that the Bible teaches.”
OK now, hold the phone; while the Bible may teach us to honor our ancestors, and certainly the courage of those who fought should be remembered, sometime the South is going to have to come to grips with the fact it lost the war, and that the war WAS about slavery. Claim states rights all you want, but it was about the rights of the individual states to decide on slavery’s fate; there is no other reason, if there hadn’t been slaves there wouldn’t have been a Civil War. It’s really that plain and simple, and the Confederate battle flag has become a symbol of racism, ignorance and even hate in this country.
Many groups – like the NAACP – have been pushing to have all symbols of the Confederacy removed from state and local buildings; and along those lines Perry wrote to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in March 2000 that, “although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property.”
“I also believe that communities should decide whether statues or other memorials are appropriate for their community,” Perry wrote in the letter, one of several obtained by The Associated Press under a public information request. “I believe that Texans should remember the past and learn from it.”
He added, “We should never forget our history, but dwelling on the 19th century takes needed attention away from our future in the 21st century.”
Perry elaborated publically on the issue, saying, “I think you’ve got a slippery slope when you start saying we’re going to start taking down every plaque or monument.”
The floor of the Texas Capitol’s rotunda still bears the seal of the Confederacy, and statues on the grounds memorialize Lee and Confederate soldiers. But civil rights organizations consider the battle flag the most objectionable symbol.
Public officials in Texas, as well as in the other Southern states, are called upon periodically to honor Confederate causes because related organizations – such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans – observe its anniversaries.
In a 2005 letter, Ricky welcomed attendees of a benefit hosted by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “By learning about the past,” he wrote, “we honor our ancestors’ memories and contributions, and appreciate the people and events that preceded the present.” Perry’s great-great-grandfather David H. Hamilton fought at Gettysburg with the First Texas Infantry.
Today, Block’s organization wants to use the Confederate flag license plate to raise money to pay for markers on Confederate soldiers’ graves. “I know that to some people it’s an issue,” he said. “But our purpose is to honor our ancestors and to educate the public on the true cause of the war.”
To educate the people on the true cause of the war; and what would that be Mr. Block? No doubt the “true cause” has nothing to do with slavery, but deals with “the War of Northern Aggression; and this is where people take issue with the battle flag because of the ignorance surrounding it. The “true cause” was slavery, there is no other cause. Additionally, the battle flag is a symbol of treason; there is nothing honorable about breaking your oath to protect and defend your country, or to raise arms against the democratically elected government.
The real issue is that Perry can’t run for the Presidency having said he’d secede, having used a hunting area with the name “Niggerhead” on the entrance, and having protected the use of Confederate symbols and not think there’s a problem. On the other hand, does any of this really surprise anyone?