Confederate license plate stirs controversy

Vince Norman

WEST PALM BEACH, FL — For many, it embodies the ultimate in racial intolerance. "It was one of the focal points during the oppressive times for people of color," said Bruce Hawthorne, a West Palm Beach resident, firmly against a Confederate Heritage license plate.

But for Jimmy Shirley, a columnist for the condo news, the proposed license plate has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with setting the record straight.

"No it’s not historically a symbol of racial intolerance anymore than the Stars and Stripes is a symbol of racial intolerance.

Due to the fact that slavery existed under the Stars and Stripes," said Shirley.

Shirley is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group dedicated to honoring the memory of Confederate troops, as well as…"Educational programs to teach people our side of the story that they may not know about," said Shirley.

Rather than slavery, Shirley says the Civil War was an attempt to maintain a stronger state government.

"The southern states withdrew from the Union, formed a new nation, the U.S. did not recognize that nation, and invaded to force them back," said Shirley.

The outcome of the conflict was decided nearly 150 years ago.  However, the flag still causes discomfort for some.

"Anything doing with the Confederacy, usually stirs up some problems," said Genie Alonso, who thinks the plate is a bad idea. And it causes consternation for others.

"I think that that would just be taking a step backwards," said Hawthorne.

And Shirley?

"I would appeal to the sense of fair play American’s have exhibited to let us have this opportunity to rehabilitate the flag and it’s image," said Shirley.

The proposed plate’s next step places it in front of the State Legislature, if it passes there, the Governor would still have to approve the bill before it becomes available to the public.

© 2009 The E.W. Scripps Co.

On The Web: