North Carolina has taken steps to remove the Confederate flag from their state license plates. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the state’s DMV said it will not issue or renew license plates that have the image of the flag or any variation of it.
In a statement, the agency said these plates “have the potential to offend those who view them,” as reported by the Raleigh News & Observer. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”
This new ban specifically affects plates offered by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which feature the Confederate battle flag prominently and can be purchased by anyone to help fund the organization. The group says that they fight to preserve the legacy of Confederate soldiers and that these “citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America.”
It is estimated that there are currently 3,000 plates with this image, so it will take a bit of time for the license plates to expire and get replaced. They should be gone within a year.
Despite the support of Sons of the Confederate Veterans, the flag has become recognized as a symbol of racism and white supremacy. Last year the Pentagon banned the Confederate flag at military venues and workplaces and prohibited the wearing of the image for military personnel.
Here’s the tweet that former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper posted, displaying his memo regarding new guidelines for flags. It does not explicitly ban the Confederate flag, but notes that “divisive symbols” should be rejected.
Today I issued a memorandum to the force on the display of flags at @DeptofDefense facilities. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation. pic.twitter.com/YQPc3kxf4V
— Archive: Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) July 17, 2020
Lawmakers in other states have been grappling with the issue for years. In South Carolina, a bill was introduced in December 2020 to remove the Confederate flag from state-issued license plates. In Virginia, an effort in 2015 removed the flag and the DMG worked with Sons of Confederate Veterans to create a new design. In Georgia, the governor asked for a redesign of the group’s license plate in 2015. It succeeded in minimizing the offensive imagery, but not removing it completely on state-issued plates.
In recent years, companies like Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Etsy have banned Confederate flag sales and prevented merchandisers from selling Confederate flag imagery on their sites. However, many other sites do continue to sell these products and report that sales notably spike following certain incidents, such as the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
And, just a few weeks ago, unknown perpetrators hung a Confederate flag outside New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the individuals on Twitter, saying:
We stand with our Jewish neighbors & loved ones, and will always stand to protect them from these sickening acts of hatred + intimidation.
White supremacists should pack up their garbage & get out of our city. New York does not and will never welcome you. We protect each other. https://t.co/pmCFXUh9bL
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2021
Insurgents at the Capitol storming on Jan. 6, 2021 also carried Confederate flags, further highlighting the frightening and divisive nature of such imagery.
“If there was any doubt about the urgency of President Joe Biden’s mission to tackle racial inequality, it was erased in the searing moment an insurrectionist rioter brazenly paraded the Confederate flag through the U.S. Capitol,” said CNN senior reporter Stephen Collinson in a tweet.
"If there was any doubt about the urgency of President Joe Biden's mission to tackle racial inequality, it was erased in the searing moment an insurrectionist rioter brazenly paraded the Confederate flag through the US Capitol." Analysis by @StCollinson https://t.co/oozFiXfum1
— CNN (@CNN) January 26, 2021
Others have a different viewpoint on the Confederate flag, including former President Donald Trump.
“When people proudly had their Confederate flags they’re not talking about racism,” Trump said during an interview with Fox News. “They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South … I say it’s freedom of many things, but it’s freedom of speech.”
What do you think? Are you glad the Confederate flag is being removed from North Carolina’s license plates?