Rick Perry, Don't Let the Confederate Flag on the Texas License Plate

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Edward H. Sebesta is co-editor of The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader (University Press of Mississippi, 2010) and Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction (University of Texas Press, 2008). He will mail this letter to Texas governor Rick Perry at the beginning of August. If you wish to add your signature, contact Mr. Sebesta at esebesta@tx.rr.com.

August 1, 2011

Edward H. Sebesta
Dallas, TX

Governor Rick Perry
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428

Dear Hon. Governor Rick Perry:

The Houston Chronicle reported on June 24, 2011, in an article entitled “Confederate Texas plate is one vote short” by Renée C. Lee, a Confederate-themed license plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) was not approved by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles due to a tie vote.  Lee informs readers, however, that in the future it is expected that the board will approve the Confederate license plate, because one of the board members who had voted against the license plate for the SCV had died and will be replaced by a board member, appointed by you, who is expected to vote for it.  We enclose with this letter a copy of the Houston Chronicle newspaper article.

We, the co-signers of this letter, ask that you do not appoint any board members in the future who would vote for an SCV license plate and appoint instead board members who will vote against such a plate, with or without Confederate symbols.

Both now and in the past the SCV promotes racism, pro-slavery ideology, anti-Semitism, neo-Confederate ideology, and condemns of the founder of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, as being a communist.  They advance such reprehensible and anti-democratic ideals chiefly through their periodicals Confederate Veteran, Southern Mercury, and their online store and merchandise catalogs.

This letter will give only a few examples of their extremist ideology.  Additional material documenting their views will be found online at the blog website http://confederatelicenseplate.blogspot.com/.

The SCV has an educational foundation, the Foundation for the Preservation of American Culture, which published the Southern Mercury from 2003 to 2008, when the magazine ceased publication due to lack of funds.  From the Southern Mercury you can assess what type of “educating” the SCV does and whether you, as governor, ought to support such views.  

As the leader of the Republican Party in Texas, we think you would be interested in an appalling Southern Mercury article entitled, “Republican Party: Red From the Start,” by Alan Stang.  Stang argues that the Republican Party was a Marxist conspiracy from its inception, writing that, “From the beginning, the Republican Party has been Red.”  In addition, Lincoln is alleged to have been a communist who should have been killed by Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Unfortunately, according to Stang, Lee and Jackson didn’t understand the threat Lincoln and the Republicans represented:

. . . Lee and Jackson did not fully comprehend what they were fighting. Had this really been a “Civil War,” rather than a secession, they would and could have easily seized Washington after Manassas and hanged our first Communist President and the other war criminals.

In another article in Southern Mercury, SCV member Frank Conner argues that the modern civil rights movement destroyed the South and that African Americans have lower IQs than whites, a conspiracy that has been covered up by liberals.  In a section of the article entitled “The Liberals Create a False Public Image of the Blacks,” Conner claims the following:

Early in the twentieth century, the liberals took control of the humanities departments in the colleges and universities of America.  Previously, anthropologists had routinely recorded the notable differences in IQ among the races; but at Columbia, a liberal cultural anthropologist named Franz Boas now changed all of that.  He decreed that there were no differences in IQ among the races, and the only biological differences between the blacks and whites were of superficial nature.  The liberals swiftly made it academically suicidal to challenge Boas’ flat assertion. … The liberals were creating a false image of the blacks in America as a highly competent people who were being held back by the prejudiced white Southerners.

In another section of the article, Conner asserted that the white South was unfairly vilified by the media, with allegedly ghastly consequences:

As the result, the U.S. Congress enacted the patently-unconstitutional Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, both of which only targeted the South.  Thus did the U.S. government institute Reconstruction II, which is still in full effect.  The Old South was destroyed, and its belief system and way of life were discredited outside the South.”

Conner’s article is a summarization of a section of his book The South Under Siege, except that in the book Conner claimed, incredibly, that the civil rights movement was a Jewish plot against the South and that “Northern Jewish intellectuals/activists” were the “deadliest” enemies of the South.

The book is reviewed in the same issue as Conner’s article with reviewer Ann Rives Zappa recommending it, writing “The South Under Siege is a masterful volume of work painstakingly researched by author Frank Conner.”

In yet another Southern Mercury article by Michael W. Masters, the very concept of anti-racism is asserted to be an attack by Marxists on the Christian West.  The following are excerpts from this article.

Using the wedge of anti-racism, cultural Marxists orchestrated judicial and legislative changes to society over the course of decades—e.g. Brown v. Board of Education in 1955 [sic], the Civil Rights acts of 1964, and the Immigration Reform Act of 1965. … The cultural Marxists relentlessly hammered away at Western cultural norms using the sledge of anti-racism as the battering ram to bring down the walls of traditional Western culture.

Master’s also alleged that immigrants are not likely to have democratic values and associates them, unfairly, with the Ugandan tyrant Idi Amin:

Would America’s current majority feel secure living in a country ruled by the likes of Idi Amin?

Unfortunately, the Southern Mercury is a collection of similar ideas, ideas that we are certain you as the Governor of Texas do not share or want to see promoted throughout the Lone Star State.  However, one additional topic is addressed in the Southern Mercury and other SCV publications and activities which must be mentioned:  specifically, the promotion of the idea through certain books defending the pernicious institution of inhuman bondage.

The very first issue of the Southern Mercury, for example, has one review praising the book Myths & Realities of American Slavery: The True History of Slavery in America, in which Ann Rives Zappa writes, “In this masterful treatment of the subject, the author uses historical data, personal accounts, and statistics to establish facts and debunk myths.”  The book is nothing more than a defense of slavery, with slaves described as being part of a happy family, naturally loyal to their masters.  The enormity of whipping of slaves is justified with the claim that whipping was a common form of punishment for everyone.  Book author John C. Perry, writes:

The most common form of slave punishment was using the whip ... Whipping, in fact, has been the most common form of corporal punishment in the history of mankind.  One did not even have to break the law to receive a whipping, dodging one’s duties could warrant a whipping.  In the 1800s, it was, in the North and South, a totally acceptable form of discipline for all races, slave and non-slave, but that was already beginning to change.  Whippings began to decline outside the South as a modern economy American economy began to evolve. … Even in my youth, in the middle of the twentieth century, I was whipped, by a switching from my mother and a belt from my father.  The old adage, “spare the rod and spoil the child,” was taken seriously in my home as I was growing up.

Perry subsequently rationalizes away or minimizes the negative aspects of slavery throughout the remainder of the volume.

In another issue, the Southern Mercury has a short story entitled, “Choosing Slavery in Mississippi Over Freedom in Pennsylvania,” about a slave who supposedly preferred to remain in bondage.  Later in the same issue a book reviewer recommends yet another pro-slavery work, The Myths of American Slavery by Walter D. Kennedy.  The book has an entire chapter entitled “Abolitionism Versus Christianity,” in which it is claimed that the abolitionists were anti-Christian heretics.  Kennedy also condemns the Southern Baptist Racial Reconciliation Resolution for their 1995 annual convention, which apologized for Southern Baptist historical support for slavery.  According to Kennedy, the Baptist “resolution is nothing more than liberal double-speak for an act of cultural genocide against the South.”

The SCV promotes and sells these more recent and historically inaccurate defenses of slavery in the Confederate Veteran magazine, and includes reprints of nineteenth-century defenses of slavery as “Confederate Gifts” and “Classic Southern Gifts.”  You can also locate these books in their annual merchandise catalogues and in their online bookstore (https://scv.secure-sites.us/store.php).

The SCV promotes one book entitled, Antebellum Slavery: An Orthodox Christian View, by Gary Lee Roper, which claims to be an orthodox Christian defense of slavery.  The foreword of the book explains that antebellum slavery was God’s providential plan to uplift Africans.  This book was also promoted by a group of clergy in the SCV in their publication Chaplain’s Corps Chronicles of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, in which reviewer Michael Andrew Grissom tells the reader “THIS IS A MUST READ!” and that “the book makes the point it is ludicrous to apologize (as several states have done recently) to a black population for legal slavery that occurred years ago when presently illegal slavery exists in at least twenty countries of the world including the USA.”  We trust, Governor Perry, that you do not agree with such ahistorical and immoral views.

The extremism of the SCV, regrettably, is not confined to the now defunct Southern Mercury.  The Confederate Veteran also promotes similar viewpoints, although not quite as openly.  Neo-Confederates hold that the Civil War was really a religious war.  In the November/December 2010 issue of the SCV’s official publication, Confederate Veteran, the Chaplain-in-Chief of the SCV, Mark W. Evans, summarizes the theological war hypothesis.  He claims that the antebellum South was an orthodox Christian region but that from the Northeastern part of the United States “one wave of heretical teaching followed another, striking at the vitals of orthodox Christianity.”  Abolitionists, moreover, are condemned:  “Their godless enthusiasm reached a pinnacle when they demanded the immediate elimination of slavery.”  Evans explains what he sees as the real issues of the Civil War, by quoting pro-slavery antebellum theologian James Henley Thornwell:

As early as 1850, James Henley Thornwell, one of the South’s most distinguished theologians, said, “The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slave holders—they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins on the one side and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other.  In one word, the world is the battleground—Christianity and atheism the combatants and the progress of humanity is at stake.

Just to make sure that the reader understands his point, another pro-slavery theologian, Benjamin Morgan Palmer’s pro-secession “Thanksgiving Speech,” is cited to purportedly prove that the slave states, by seceding, were defending Christianity against atheism.  Evans concludes that “ungodly thinking has taken our land to the brink of destruction,” and urges the readers to have faith in Christianity.

By examining the SCV 2009-2010 bookstore catalog , we see a number of neo-Confederate works.  There’s the book Dred Scott Decision by E.W.R. Ewing defending the Dred Scott decision.  There is also Myths of American Slavery and Antebellum Slavery: An Orthodox Christian View for sale, along with The South Was Right!, which denounces the Voting Rights Act as fraudulent and condemns Reconstruction, our nation’s first and splendid attempt at a multiracial democracy.  In addition, there is the book, Southern by the Grace of God by Michael Andrew Grissom, which praises the Ku Klux Klan of the nineteenth and twentieth century and urges its readers to read The Clansman by Thomas Dixon.  There’s Connor’s The South Under Siege, with its arguments that the civil rights movement was a Jewish conspiracy and African Americans have low IQs.  There are likewise books praising the white terrorist Red Shirts of South Carolina, such as Hampton and His Redshirts: South Carolina Deliverance in 1976 by Alfred B. Williams and Ousting the Carpetbagger from South Carolina by Henry T. Thompson.  There is also a selection of works condemning Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo.  The preceding description of the 2009-2010 catalog is largely available in the 2008-2009 catalog. Thus, the promotion of such works is clearly not a one-time thing.

Before the media, the Sons of Confederate Veterans like to present an image of nostalgia and talk of “heritage” and historical remembrance.  However, the reality is much grimmer: they advance a neo-Confederate agenda of racism and white supremacy, anti-Semitism, defend slavery and promote the ridiculous idea that Abraham Lincoln, the first president of the Republican Party, was part of a communist conspiracy.

Allowing them an official license plate will aid the SCV in publicizing their organization and will give them the endorsement of the State of Texas.

The twenty-first century is a global and multiracial century, Texas is a multiracial state, and the Texas state government should not enable or even appear to promote a white supremacist group.


Edward H. Sebesta

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