The old South does indeed rise again
Tuesday, 03 Jun 2008
SEFFNER – Amidst renewed controversy over the Confederate flag, the symbol of the old South is flying over Seffner.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans has hoisted the flag – which, at 30 feet by 50 feet, they call the world’s largest – at a plot of land near U.S. Highway 92 and Interstate 75, and visible from I-75’s busy interchange with I-4.
The display is in honor of Jefferson Davis’ 200th birthday, the group explained. Davis was president of the Confederate States of America until his capture by the Union in 1865.
Despite critics who call the flag a racist symbol, the Sons of Confederate Veterans say they’re wrong.
"I’m tired of those people making accusations that it’s all about hate," said Phil Waters with the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The group says the Civil War was not fought over slavery, and therefore the flag is not racist.
"The simple answer that the war was about slavery is incorrect. It was an economic war," offered Lunelle Siegel with the Daughters of the Confederacy.
That explanation doesn’t sit well with some county commissioners.
"No sir, I don’t buy it. This is not about history. It’s about shoving this down minority people’s throats," said County Commissioner Rose Ferlita.
The NAACP, among others, calls it an eyesore placed right at the gateway to Tampa from south Florida and the east coast.
"Do you want Hillsborough County and Tampa branded nationally as a racist environment?" asked Curtis Stokes with the NAACP.
"Hopefully, the Sons of the Confederacy, if we have enough community input, can see what they’re actually doing is hurtful, harmful, is opening old wounds," said County Commissioner Kevin White.
Still, the Sons of Confederate Veterans isn’t backing down.
"A lot of people fly that flag as a statement, and it doesn’t have to be racism. It’s about I’m from the south. I’m a free person. I have the right to make decisions," offered Waters.
The Confederate flag has largely disappeared from public places. It was removed from the Hillsborough County seal in 1994. However, the private flagpole falls outside the jurisdiction of Code Enforcement.
Late Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League came out with a statement strongly condemning the decision to put up the flag.
"While the Confederate battle flag is seen by some as a symbol of cultural pride, the flag has an historical association with slavery and has been used by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan to symbolize white power and superiority," it said.
The group says it plans to support the NAACP’s work to try and overturn the legal authorization for the flag.
"Many Americans of all races, national origins, regions and religions regard the Confederate battle flag to be a modern-day symbol of racism, intimidation, hatred, oppression and violence – all of which are in stark contrast with American values," the statement continued.
The League says it’s sent a letter to the Hillsborough County Commission condemning the flag.