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Perry Once Defended Confederate Symbols

05 Oct 2011

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ts05102 Motor Vehicles.jpg - ts05102 Motor Vehicles.jpg

 This image provided by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles shows the design of a proposed Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate


AP

Eleven years ago, when the NAACP stepped up a campaign to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouses and other government buildings across the South, it found an opponent in Rick Perry.

Texas had a pair of bronze plaques with symbols of the Confederacy displayed in its state Supreme Court building. Perry, then lieutenant governor, said they should stay put, arguing that Texans "should never forget our history."

It's a position Perry has taken consistently when the legacy of the Civil War has been raised, as have officials in many of the other former Confederate states.

But while defence of Confederate symbols and Southern institutions can still be good politics below the Mason-Dixon line, the subject can appear in a different light when officials seek national office, reports The Associated Press.

For Perry, now Texas governor for 11 years and in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates, a racial issue is already dogging him.

He took criticism over the weekend for a rock outside the Texas hunting camp his family once leased that had the name Niggerhead painted on it. Perry's campaign says the governor's father painted over the rock to cover the name soon after he began leasing the site in the early 1980s and says the Perry family never controlled, owned or managed the property. But rival Herman Cain, the only black Republican in the race, says the rock symbolizes Perry's insensitivity to race.

A related issue may rise this fall when Texas decides whether to allow specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag. The plates have been requested by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a nonprofit organization Perry has supported over the years. A state board he appointed will decide.

The NAACP says its initiative against "glorification" of slave-state symbols remains ongoing. "The romanticism around the Old South," said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau. "It's a view of history that ignores how racism became a tool to maintain a system of supremacy and dominance."

Perry campaign spokesman, Mark Miner did not return messages seeking comment on the matter. But Granvel Block, the Texas Division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the organization appreciated Perry's position on such issues.

"I would give him high praise for saying it," Block said. "Honouring your ancestors, it's something that the Bible teaches."

The Confederate battle flag has been chief target for the NAACP. The organization called for a boycott of South Carolina in 2000 for flying the banner over its statehouse. The state moved the flag to a capitol memorial.

In 2003, Georgia replaced its state flag, which included the Confederate battle standard, with one that combined other elements from previous state flags. Other institutions have scaled back their displays of Confederate heritage. The University of Mississippi retired Colonel Rebel as its on-field mascot.

In January 2000 the NAACP asked Texas to remove the Confederate battle flag from plaques in the entryway of a building housing the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, saying it undermined the notion of judicial equality. One of the 11-inch by 20-inch bronze plaques featured the seal of the Confederacy and the other the image of the battle flag and quotations from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Perry wrote to the Sons of Confederate Veterans in March 2000 that, "although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property."

Tags: NAACP, Politics, World, Rick Perry

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