Say “No” to Confederate license plates

I’ve been in Texas over 25 years now, but sometimes I just can’t escape my Yankee heritage.

A group of elected officials said Saturday that Texas cannot allow the Confederate flag – which they consider a symbol of oppression – to be put on Texas license plates.

“We cannot allow the state to issue a symbol of intimidation,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said to a crowd of community leaders outside the Civil Courthouse in downtown Saturday.

Lee and other officials plan to go to Austin on Nov. 10, when the Department of Motor Vehicles votes on the design, with petitions and a letter from 17 state legislators to persuade them to vote against the license plates.

“We will not go backward; we are going forward,” Lee said.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said that allowing these license plates would be allowing the people who lost a war to write history. “I’m glad they (the Confederates) lost,” he said. “They were on the wrong side of history.”

Here’s a story about the petitions, a copy of the letter signed by the 19 legislators, a separate letter sent by Rep. Garnet Coleman, and an op-ed in the Statesman, which also ran in the Sunday Chron, against the Confederate plates by Matt Glazer.

Like I said, I’ve been in Texas a long time now, but stuff like this proves to me that you can never truly take the Yankee out of the boy. You can talk all you want about “heritage”, but to me the Confederacy represents a group of people that took up arms against the United States, resulting in the death of over a million people. If they had been successful, the United States as we know it would not exist, and there would be an entirely different country in place as its southern neighbor. (One wonders if either or both countries would be talking about border fences in that scenario.) I cannot understand why anyone would want to commemorate that. Remember it, study it, learn from it, sure, but put it on a license plate? No thanks.

None of this takes into account the racial aspect of the stars and bars, or its sordid history as a symbol of intimidation against African-Americans. Here, my Northernness makes me unqualified to discuss it because I have no experience with it. I can’t say that I ever laid eyes on a Confederate flag until I was in my 20s. But I take seriously the objections and concerns that those who do have a personal history with this have raised, and as Glazer noted in his op-ed, those objections are bipartisan. The reason this is coming to a head now is because a ninth member has been added to the DMV commission that originally voted on this, meaning the next vote will not be a tie. I stand with those who say that this is a bad idea and it should be rejected.

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9 Responses to Say “No” to Confederate license plates

  1. Edward H. Sebesta says:

    A group of us wrote a letter to Rick Perry asking him to oppose a Confederate license plate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was published by the History News Network, a website of George Mason University.

    The interesting thing about the letter is that it focuses on the Sons of Confederate Veterans and their racism and extremism.

    After it was published on HNN, we printed out copies of the web letter and sent it each member of the DMV board by certified post.

    I think you might find it of interest.


    Edward H. Sebesta

    Co-editor of “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction,” Univ. of Texas Press, 2008 (, and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The ‘Great Truth’ About the ‘Lost Cause’” Univ. Press of Mississippi 2010. (

  2. Joshua bullard says:

    I strongly object to the plates and would ask all public officials to object to these plates.

    no vote the plates
    joshua ben bullard

  3. Gary Bennett says:

    As someone who grew up in Texas and the South, I could not agree with you more. It was obvious even in the 1950s that the region was economically, culturally and politically backward compared to the rest of the country, and that not only the tragic mistake of secession but attitudes that had persisted for almost a century afterward had much to do with that. When the Confederate (battle) flag became the symbol of resistance to desegregation and decent treatment of blacks, that increased my hatred of that poisonous symbol. Fortunately, leaders in Texas (along with Florida, North Carolina and Atlanta) refused during the civil rights era to follow the lemmings of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and non-Atlanta Georgia in that idiocy. And guess what? The so-called Sun Belt boom of the succeeding half-century has pretty much followed those lines: Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Atlanta have boomed economically and demographically, whereas the Deep South is pretty much still spinning its wheels. There is that to be said, even if our state continues to elect more than its share of morons to office.

  4. mollusk says:

    I (barely) remember separate water fountains and three bathrooms, and more clearly remember nasty racist terms casually being used in everyday conversation by supposedly educated adults and Confederate battle flag front plates in the states that only use a rear plate. I like to think I’ve moved beyond that, and I pray for when this whole country does.

    This particular badge is surely a symbol of hate and oppression, just as “states’ rights” is code for an attempt to return to a time gone by. I think its display would be a public confession of ignorance and bigotry. But I’m wondering…isn’t there maybe some benefit to confirmation that the person in the next vehicle is a jackass? (I started to say “car,” but realized it probably wouldn’t be). After all, we all do have a Constitutional right to publicly profess whatever, no matter how far off the scale it may be – and I certainly don’t want some official of the Great State of Texas determining what I can and can’t profess.

  5. Temple Houston says:

    “You can talk all you want about “heritage”, but to me the Confederacy represents a group of people that took up arms against the United States, resulting in the death of over a million people. If they had been successful, the United States as we know it would not exist, and there would be an entirely different country in place as its southern neighbor.” Hey, you don’t have to be a d__n Yankee to agree with that statement.

    I take my stand with Sam Houston when it comes to the question of secession.

  6. AJ in Seabrook says:

    Oh come on people. Facts are facts. I have family members that fought on both sides of that horrible war. I think people are too damn sensitive. If a person wants to spend their money to buy a plate that honors a family member that fought for the Confederacy, then so be it. It wasn’t all about SLAVERY. It was about an oppressive Federal Government. If you read the Constitution, it allows for secession if necessary. Apparently they thought it was.
    But whatever. It is part of our history, and if I want to honor them I will regardless if it is a plate, sticker or banner, etc. Doesn’t make me a racist pickup driving rube as many would like to profess. Just because the a-holes in the KKK decided to use it as a symbol doesn’t make it a racist symbol. Hell the Swastika was used by American Indians many years before the Nazis hijacked it.
    You can buy into the revisionist history and hold onto your hatred. I choose to let it go. I’m 1/4 Cherokee. Now if any people should be pissed…….. So shhhhhhhh!!! already.

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  9. Bill Shirley says:

    I’m a rooted enough Texan to have Confederate soldier ancestors. I’ve beed to a rededication marker placement on one of their graves. That was the only situation that I’ve been to that I think it’s been appropriate to use or display the flag.

    It wasn’t too many years ago I still saw the flag being used as an intimidation tactic in a place more rural than Houston (Port Arthur).

    Stereotypically, I think Kuff tips his “yankee” hand a bit toward the “it’s all the South’s fault”, but not blatantly.

    I don’t (and I’m sure most others wouldn’t) have a problem with The Sons of Confederate Veterans having a license plate. They can redesign it and apply again.

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