The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans recently petitioned the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a license plate featuring the Confederate flag. An April vote by the DMV board wound up tied, and now, with a re-vote pending, Texas is perilously close to issuing a license plate featuring a symbol embraced by white supremacists across the American South. But Texas is not quite the bastion of white Southern rebelry it once was, and the national media would have you believe it remains. The latest census figures show that Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans collectively make up 55 percent of the state’s population. In the event the Confederate plate is adopted, here’s a list of places you might want to avoid should you be inclined to don one of these things on your truck.
Dallas/Fort Worth & Houston Perhaps no places better reflect the changing face of Texas than these metro areas. Showing up today with a Confederate flag on your license plate in Texas’ two largest urban centers probably isn’t a good idea. In terms of African-American population growth in the past decade, Texas ranks No. 2 in America, behind only Georgia, earning both Dallas and Houston mentions on Black Enterprise magazine’s Top Cities For African Americans list. The black population grew by as much as 178 percent the past decade in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs, according to the census.
Austin Unless you want to find a naked hippy flash mob picketing your car when you walk out of the local Walmart, you better not even think about cruising through this mecca of liberal weirdness with a Confederate flag license plate. The University of Texas at Austin hosts a student body of nearly 50 percent ethnic minorities.
San Antonio Approximately 63 percent of San Antonio’s population is of Hispanic origin, according to the 2010 census. One word for anyone foolish enough to drive through the home of Fiesta with a Confederate flag on their car: piñata.
El Paso El Paso, a city with an 80 percent Latino population, overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Showing up there with an antiquated hate flag is not going to win you many friends.
The Rio Grande Valley The Valley’s population spiked by roughly 63 percent in recent years, topping out at nearly 1.2 million inhabitants, according to the census, with anywhere from 83 to 86 percent of those folks being Latino. The median age is just under 30 years old, too, making the general vibe down there anything but “Old South.” You really want to ride through it in the General Lee?
The Sons of Confederate Veterans say their flag isn’t about race. They say they simply want to honor their ancestors who died in battle. But putting aside the race issue for a moment, is this history really something the state of Texas should officially sanction on a license plate? I don’t think so, and here’s why:
The Confederacy was a separatist government that waged war against the United States, lost, and was forced to disband. Can you imagine Texas honoring any other government that went to war with the United States by putting that government’s flag on a Texas license plate? Would we put the Mexican flag on a Texas license plate? The Mexican flag used to fly over Texas, too. Something tells me the very same people who are so concerned with preserving Southern heritage would be the first to take up arms against the idea of the state printing a Mexican flag on a license plate to honor Mexican heritage.
A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans told me that, originally, the Confederate flag was not intended to be a racist symbol. And even though some local chapters have published statements on their websites disavowing any bigotry associated with the flag, they cannot change the fact that for decades the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups have used the Confederate flag as a symbol of white supremacy. “Which is why there’s no Confederate flag on any of my stuff,” the Sons of Confederate Veterans member I spoke to told me, leading me to believe that maybe he doesn’t support the proposed plate, either.
A DMV spokesperson said the re-vote on the license plate is not on any upcoming board agendas for now. The spokesperson did say, however, that the application is still on the table. Here’s hoping a little sensitivity for our current cultural climate prevails.