Per­sist­ing di­vide

US Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag sales boom af­ter Char­lottesville clash

Global Times - - World -

De­mand for Con­fed­er­ate flags at Chris Ack­er­man’s Civil War mem­o­ra­bilia shop in Penn­syl­va­nia has surged since vi­o­lence at a white na­tion­al­ist rally in Vir­ginia this month reignited the de­bate over race and the legacy of slav­ery US.

The trend has been sim­i­lar for other sell­ers of the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag, re­tail­ers re­port. But now that most ma­jor US flag mak­ers no longer pro­duce it, given the con­tro­versy over the ban­ner, much of the new de­mand is filled by im­ports from China and other coun­tries.

“We need to get more flags,” Ack­er­man re­called say­ing fol­low­ing the first or­der af­ter the Au­gust 12 rally in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia. His Get­tys­burg Reg­i­men­tal Quar­ter­mas­ter store, near a his­toric Civil War bat­tle­field, and web­site sells $ 400 hand­made flags to re- en­ac­tors and $ 40 ones shipped from China.

Ack­er­man said de­mand had jumped four­fold to as many as 40 sales a week, an in­crease he likened to the surge in gun sales that oc­cur when­ever new gun con­trol mea­sures are weighed or feared.

Large re­tail­ers – in­clud­ing Wal- Mart Stores Inc, Ama­zon. com Inc, eBay Inc and Sears Hold­ings Corp – stopped sell­ing the flag in 2015 af­ter an im­age emerged of one be­ing clutched by Dy­lann Roof. The white su­prem­a­cist killed nine mem­bers of a Bi­ble study group at a his­toric, pre­dom­i­nantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Since then, a na­tional de­bate has in­ten­si­fied over sym­bols of the proslav­ery Con­fed­er­acy. Civil rights ac­tivists say they pro­mote racism, while ad­vo­cates con­tend they rec­og­nize Civil War valor and are a vi­tal re­minder of their South­ern her­itage.

The flash­point for the Au­gust 12 vi­o­lence in Char­lottesville was the protest or­ga­nized by white na­tion­al­ists against plans to re­move a statue of Con­fed­er­ate Gen­eral Robert E. Lee. A 32- year- old lo­cal woman was killed when a man crashed a car into a crowd of anti- racism coun­ter­protesters.

Amid the re­newed dis­cus­sion of the Civil War’s legacy, many cities in the South have stepped up their re­moval of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments and other con­tentious sym­bols of the failed ef­fort by the Con­fed­er­acy’s 11 states to se­cede from the Union.

Some busi­nesses also got in­volved: The Six Flags over Texas amuse­ment park re­moved a Con­fed­er­ate flag from its en­trance. A group of Mis­sis­sippi his­tory pro­fes­sors called for the Con­fed­er­ate em­blem to be re­moved from their state’s flag. And lo­cal news me­dia re­ported that a flea mar­ket in Penn­syl­va­nia asked ven­dors not to sell Con­fed­er­ate flags.

Surg­ing sales

But at Alabama Flag and Ban­ner, one of the few re­main­ing US mak­ers of Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flags, sales topped 150 in a sin­gle day last week, equiv­a­lent to about a quar­ter of av­er­age an­nual sales.

“I have been quite sur­prised,” said Belinda Mel­son- Kennedy, who owns the Huntsville- area com­pany.

Flag or­ders also quadru­pled at Dixie Out­fit­ters in Odum, Ge­or­gia, whose web­site says tongue in cheek that it has been “pre­serv­ing South­ern her­itage since 1861” – the year the Civil War be­gan. Owner Dewey Bar­ber said he sells as many as 15,000 Con­fed­er­ate flags a year, which he ob­tains from dis­trib­u­tors who of­ten source them from over­seas.

Few ma­jor US flag man­u­fac­tur­ers still pro­duce the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle flag, said Reggie Van­denBosch, sec­re­tary of the Flag Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. He did not know ex­actly how many are made or sold each year.

The flags can still be found at in­de­pen­dent shops sell­ing high­erend ver­sions, web­sites with cheap im­ported flags, flea mar­kets and from smaller mak­ers such as the South­ern Pride Flag Co, whose web­site says it is lo­cated in “oc­cu­pied Ge­or­gia.”

The flag car­ried into bat­tle by Con­fed­er­ate forces has long been a fix­ture in pop­u­lar cul­ture, in­clud­ing promi­nently on the roof of an or­ange Dodge Charger mus­cle car in the pop­u­lar 1980s TV show “Dukes of Haz­zard.”

It has of­ten been adopted as a sign of in­de­pen­dence or de­fi­ance, of­ten with­out his­tor­i­cal con­text, said Karen Cox, pro­fes­sor of his­tory at the Univer­sity of North Carolina- Char­lotte. But it also serves as ral­ly­ing sym­bol for the far right and was car­ried by marchers in Char­lottesville who in­cluded

Ku Klux Klan mem­bers and neo- Nazis.

Alabama Flag and Ban­ner’s Mel­son- Kennedy Kennedy, whose dis­tant rel­a­tives fought for the Con­fed­er­acy, said she dis­liked see­ing the flag used by white su­prem­a­cists. But she said it re­mained an im­por­tant re­minder of South­ern his­tory and cul­ture.

While it re­mains un­clear whether the push to re­move Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments will re­sult in more flags com­ing down, ac­cep­tance of their dis­play in pub­lic spa­ces ap­pears to be de­clin­ing, said Brandy Faulkner, a Vir­ginia Tech ex­pert on race and politics. Dixie Out­fit­ters’ Bar­ber dis­agreed. “It’s not go­ing away,” Bar­ber said. “They can take down mon­u­ments, they can ban this and that, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re cel­e­brat­ing our her­itage.”

Photo: AFP

Men hold a torn con­fed­er­ate flag fol­low­ing a demon­stra­tion against sup­port­ers of a Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ment in Fort San­ders in Knoxville, Ten­nessee on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.