After the ranch comes ... the license plate
Wed October 5, 2011 6:52 pm

Governor Perry faces another hurdle on the issue of race. It is whether the Department of Motor Vehicles should allow specialty license plates that carry the emblem of the Confederate battle flag.

Senator Royce West went public with his concerns earlier today. West put out a statement that I will publish in its entirety:

DALLAS -- It’s been quite an interesting week. Part of it has been spent responding to questions about whether or not I think Gov. Rick Perry is a racist, to which I’ve responded with a resounding no. This firestorm was ignited last weekend when the Washington Post ran a story centered on a stone at the gate of the governor’s hunting camp that bears an inflammatory inscription that’s a derivative of the African nation of Nigeria.

Amid pressing matters of unemployment - including that of teachers, growing poverty, smoldering wildfires and a still-teetering national economy, I’ve become aware of a pending vote on a proposed Texas license plate that commemorates the Confederacy. It’s another reminder of the ‘good ole days’ that weren’t so good if the color of your skin happened to be Black 150 years ago.

It was just a few years ago that a similar discourse emerged over the presence of numerous plaques on display within the state capital complex that also celebrated the Confederacy. It’s non-ironic that the same statewide elected official who saw no harm with preserving these vestiges of a shameful period in Texas and American history is part of the current debate.

At issue is whether the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), among its assortment of specialty license plates, will approve a plate bearing a depiction of the Confederate battle flag?

This issue has been visited times over. Blacks in South Carolina have taken offense to the rebel flag flying over its statehouse, prompting its removal in 2000. To date, it remains a sore spot. Confederate theme-images have caused the same debate at numerous colleges and schools nationwide and even locally. The University of Texas at Arlington’s athletics program - my alma mater - was once named  The Rebels. No more!

Ill-intended or not, why would African Americans want to be reminded of a legalized system of involuntary servitude, dehumanization, rape and mass murder? It’s as undesirable as another ethnic community wishing to relive the Holocaust. There are those who will scream he’s using the race card.  But such pronouncements are akin to blaming the victim for the crime.

With the debate defined, what now? Your opinion and input can be heard. This matter will appear on a future agenda of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles as early as November 10. It failed approval earlier this year. To share your opinion, you can call the Texas DMV toll-free at 1-888-368-4689 or follow instructions at www.txdmv.gov/ under “E-Mail Us.”

Which came first, the race card or the racism?

[End of Senator West's release]

I took the opportunity to email the DMV, using the form on its web site. I said that the Confederate battle flag is widely seen as a racist symbol, both by those who display it, intending to offend, and by those who find it offensive. The Civil War was a tragic period in Texas history and should not be celebrated. Instead, I proposed that the DMV should provide a likeness of Sam Houston on Texas license plates, honoring him for opposing secession.

Since Perry controls every state agency, he will have the opportunity to tell DMV what to do, if he chooses. I had written about this previously, but that was before Perry found himself between, shall we say, the rock and a hard place. Now he (or his appointees) will have to make a decision. Perry is not one to cave in to political correctness, but this may be the time to do it.

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week