Georgia License Plates Feature Confederate Flag: Are They A ‘Racially Charged Symbol’?

Georgia license plates have often been colorful and featured logos and messages on subjects as diverse as peaches and wildlife protection.

But the latest specialized license plate has enraged civil rights organizations and opened old wounds, since it includes an image of the Confederate flag!

The new Georgia plates have set off a dispute between those who see the battle flag as honoring Confederate heritage and others who say it’s a racially charged symbol of oppression, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A spokesman for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Maynard Eaton, said the state should not have sanctioned the battle emblem to appear on a Georgia tag.

“To display this is reprehensible,” Eaton said. “We don’t have license plates saying ‘Black Power.’ “

Confederate battle flag

On the other side, it was the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans which requested that the Georgia issue the new license plates. Their spokesman, Ray McBerry, said the group meant no offense and views the plates as a way for people to honor their heritage.

“We believe that everyone has the right to preserve their heritage,” he said. “Southerners have as much right to be proud of their heritage as anybody else.”

Georgia Governor, Nathan Deal, commented that the new tag came as a surprise to him and that he had no information about it in advance.

The new license plate shows a Confederate battle flag image in the background and also features a logo of the Sons of Confederate veterans.

Other states which originally joined the Confederacy have taken different positions on the issue of displaying the “Stars and Bars” battle flag.

North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi have specialty license plates that include it, while it was rejected by Texas on the grounds that it would offend many residents.

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the Texas motor vehicle agency, and its board members. The case is still in the courts.

In Georgia, it is the Department of Revenue’s Motor Vehicle Division which must approve designs for specialty plates. Officials did not respond to questions from the Atlanta newspaper about the criteria it uses. The would only confirm that they can’t violate copyright laws.

Given the degree of the controversy stirred up by Georgia’s decision to allow these license plates, it is probable that civil rights activists will apply to the courts to reverse that decision.

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