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Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Is the Lone Star flag

a racist symbol?

The shouting match taking place in South Carolina over the "Confederate" flag brings up some interesting issues for Texas.

Texas fought a successful war for independence against Mexico, and an unsuccessful war for independence against the United States. The population of Texas contains two ethnic/racial groups that might declare the Lone Star flag to be a symbol of hatred, racism and oppression _ hispanics and blacks.

The same rationale being used in South Carolina would work just as well here.

It was once legal to own black slaves here just like the rest of the Confederate states. And hispanics and whites haven't exactly written a tale of harmony across the pages of Texas history. The Lone Star flag has flown proudly over every episode.

So should we haul the Lone Star flag down?

On the other hand, there are a lot of people in Texas that don't see racism and bigotry when they see the state flag flapping in the breeze.

Instead, they see a symbol of independence. They see a symbol of men and women of belief and fortitude. Men and women willing to risk everything to live free. A people who did this twice in less than 30 years with Texas winning her independence in 1836, and succeeding from the Union 25 years later in the War for Southern Independence (known above the Mason-Dixon Line as the Civil War).

That some people might see the Texas flag as an offensive symbol doesn't change the reverence others hold for it, and vice versa.

So how do we decide if we need to get rid of the flag because it is too offensive for some folks?

Probably the best way is to just vote on it.

Human nature probably precludes us designing any symbol that makes everyone happy.

So the only question left is what percentage of the population must dislike a flag or other symbol before we haul it down and design another one?

Majority vote is a simple answer, but we could assign any percentage we want. This is how South Carolina ought to solve this question. At this point, some people are always going to see that flag as a symbol of pride, courage and independence. Others will always see it as a symbol of racism and hatred.

Let the people vote, and be done with it. If someone doesn't like the result, they can move, or start lobbying for another vote.

No one ever made claim that living in a democracy was perfect bliss _ just a lot better than the alternatives.

And just for the record:

* While we are talking about offensive flags _ the Star Spangled Banner reigned over slavery for nearly 100 years. Why doesn't anyone associate it with slavery and racism?

* The "rebel" flag that flies over the capitol building in South Carolina was never the national flag of the Confederacy. It is the Confederate Naval Jack flown on ships, and was also the official flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the army led by Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the Army of Tennessee.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose  column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

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