The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles board will consider approving custom license plate designs featuring the Confederate Flag, and three crosses on a hill, at its meeting in Austin next week. (more…)
Whether Texas joins the handful of other states that have already approved license plates benefiting the Sons of Confederate Veterans likely depends Gov. Rick Perry, who must fill a vacancy on a state board that split on the decision earlier this year.
In August, Reuters speculated that the Confederate plates could become an issue for Perry on the campaign trail, while Matt Glazer at Progress Texas — whose group has made the plates one of its signature causes — said there doesn’t appear to be anything forcing Perry to make an appointment before the election.
In the meantime, then, the board seems to remain split — they voted on a slate of new license plate options this morning, but according to a DMV spokeswoman, the Confederate veterans’ plate wasn’t one of them.
So for now, the license plates — which would benefit the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ effort to place markers at Southern Civil War veterans’ graves — continue to draw supporters and detractors among Texas politicians, particularly because the license plate would include an SCV logo that includes the Confederate Navy Jack
Shortly after the Reuters piece, and a Texas Independent report on the issue, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson penned an op-ed arguing that the license plates offer expression to people who are proud of their history.
Patterson, a Republican running for lieutenant governor in 2012, is a member of the SCV, and has argued in favor of the license plates before. In his op-ed, he said he supports honoring Confederate veterans just as he supported honoring black soldiers who fought in the Civil War with a plate benefiting the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum:
An examination of the Buffalo Soldiers actions could easily offend anyone familiar with history. They were sent to Texas on a mission to subjugate and enslave the Native American population, which is exactly what they did. Their fierce determination forced Indians into reservations to live essentially as prisoners of war held by the U.S. government.
Is this a history of which we should be proud? Should these soldiers be commemorated on a license plate?
Of course they should. The Buffalo Soldier license plate, just like the Confederate plate, is intended to honor soldiers who served with pride and dignity in defense of Texas. That’s all.
In Wednesday’s Houston Chronicle, though, state Rep. Sylvester Turner and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, both Houston Democrats, offer a rebuttal:
The history of lynching in Texas, much like in Florida, is also attached to the symbol of the Confederate flag in the state. The SCV largely dismisses the flag as a symbol of racial oppression and suggests that such a view would be a misreading of the flag’s historical significance and use. But the SCV is attempting to rewrite a history of the South and Southern culture without a critical perspective on the damaging institution of racial slavery.
The lawmakers suggest the vote may come up Friday, when board members did, in fact, vote this morning — but they put off a decision on the Confederate plates. When Perry does appoint the board’s tie-breaking member, Turner and Ellis say the vote should be a simple one:
Texas does not need a state-sanctioned vanity plate for the Confederacy. The reasons for this are clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution and in hundreds of efforts since the Civil War to provide equality for all citizens. If there are Texans who wish to honor the Confederacy, let them do so on their own, through their organizations and their associations.
Update at 4 p.m.: Also today, Progress Texas pointed to a decision by the Lexington, Va., City Council to prohibit Confederate flags on city-owned poles as another sign that Texas shouldn’t endorse a license plate with the symbol. In a statement, Glazer called out Patterson in particular for his support:
“Commissioner Patterson and others are endorsing a history that should be recognized but not promoted by supporting the use of the confederate flag on Texas license plates. Texans are ready to move forward. Texans do not want the confederate flag and all it represents to be a symbol of Texas.”