Last week, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board of directors decided unanimously not to approve a Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate featuring a Confederate battle flag. Many people showed up at the DMV hearing Thursday to testify for and (mostly) against the measure. But one man stood out with a simple, three-minute testimony that got him mentioned in the Austin-American Statesmen.
Reverend George V. Clark of east Austin’s Mount Zion Baptist Church is an African-American who has lived in Texas his entire 82 years. We can all imagine he’s seen the best and worst this state has to offer.
Though so-called dignitaries testified for far longer than Clark, (Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, spoke a whopping 18 minutes, even though testimony was supposed to be limited to three.), and far more theatrically, (Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, brought his own American flag, quoted from the Star Spangled Banner, and got the audience to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.), theirs were not the testimonies that impressed the Statesman’s Ken Herman. Instead it was the heartfelt words of a man who has lived through the many changes that have occurred in the American South for people of color: “Mr. Chairman and board, I chose not to do any research on history, probably cause I’m history myself. I’m 82 years old. I’ve lived in Austin all of my life. Served in the military. Worked for the State of Texas, retired. Currently pastor a church now for 42 years,” he began.
“It saddens me that the possibility exists that I might still be driving around the state and frequently see something that represents hate, something that has made people feel less than human, something that caused you in the past to drive along a highway and see a confederate flag where you need to stop, but you see the flag and you keep driving.
His words remind those of us who did not live through racial segregation not to flippantly dismiss the power of symbols, reminding us that we must vigilantly guard that for which so many have suffered and died.
Fortunately, the board would not deny the man his congregation calls “The Best Pastor Ever”.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, however, vowed to file a lawsuit if Texas rejected the plate. Three of the nine existing Confederate flag license plates were instituted after the Sons of Confederate Veterans successfully sued those states.