Given the present, often ill-tempered, discussion about the display
of Confederate symbols in North Carolina, in particular the formally
approved Sons of the Confederate Veterans custom license plate, we
believe it is important to correct certain misapprehensions and
misstatements of fact that have appeared in the news media recently and
that have been made by some political leaders.
In recent days our cemeteries have been desecrated (Durham’s
Maplewood Cemetery) and our monuments defaced (in Asheville). Calls have
been issued by Governor Pat McCrory to in effect punish thousands of
Tar Heels who have no connection whatsoever to the dastardly event that
occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. Their only “sin” is to have had
Southern ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, whom they memorialize
with a custom license tag.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) is like other civic groups
that have customized North Carolina plates. We were founded in 1896 by
the sons (and descendants) of those Tar Heel soldiers who left their
homes and families to go fight for their states in a long, very brutal
and bloody war between the states. We are a civic, not-for-profit, and
charitable organization, an organization dedicated to conserving the
heritage of our state.
We do considerable work in supporting the
preservation of North Carolina’s history, including significant support
for historic restoration, through participation in the activities of our
historic sites, and by our contributions to artifact preservation. We
have contributed more than $100,000 for these projects, plus countless
man-hours of our time. Paramount for the SCV is our mission to
commemorate our ancestor soldiers. We believe that by our civic
activities, we honor our ancestors.
Fifteen years ago, after a long court case and after a favorable
decision by the Court of Appeals, the SCV legally won the right to have
the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles issue custom license
plates for our members. The SCV’s specialized license plates bear the
exact registered seal of the organization, as is normal for those civic
groups that possess the right to custom plates. Since that time until
the past week or two, there has been no
controversy about our licenses.
The registered emblem of the SCV is the square Battle Flag, with the
historic Cross of St. Andrew (the cross of the Scots who settled in the
Southern colonies prior to the American Revolution) emblazoned and
surrounded by our name. The Battle Flag was carried by soldiers in
1861-65, and historically it was a soldiers’ flag. Of course,
regrettably, it has been misused and abused on occasion during the past
150 years by a very few deranged individuals and hate groups. The SCV
has repeatedly condemned in the strongest terms this misuse by such
groups as the KKK, which we feel dishonors our ancestors and the flag
But consider: the United States flag has been misused as well, and
even more so. For eighty-eight (1788-1866) years the US flag flew over
slavery, even worse, over the legal buying, selling, and brutal
importation of slaves. Do we ban it because of that history?
US flag flew over the concentration camps where our government
imprisoned the Nisei Japanese civilians during World War II, it flew at
the Sand Creek massacre of peaceful Indians in 1864 and at Wounded Knee.
Are we ready to say that the US flag represents “hate” and “racism”
because it was badly misused on those occasions?
We don’t think so. Rather, we believe that Americans of good will can
distinguish between a few misguided and hateful individuals and
instances in our past, and the symbols of what is true and good and
honorable in our nation. It is just so with the SCV emblem which is as
American as the Maryland flag with the historic arms of Lord Baltimore,
the California Republic Bear in the California flag, or the Algonquian
Native American in the Massachusetts banner.
In North Carolina there are license plates that commemorate
the NRA, that honor tobacco, that declare “In God We Trust.” And just
like the NRA and other organizations, the fact that we have custom North
Carolina DMV tags in no way indicates an endorsement by the state.
These symbols are for some people controversial and perhaps
objectionable. Which license plate is next on the chopping block? Is the
state of North Carolina going to censor groups that some people may not
agree with? Suppose you are a UNC grad and hate North Carolina State:
are we going to deny NC State grads a license plate? Just how far into
political correctness are we willing to go? Is this truly the American
spirit of liberty and mutual respect? Does this bring us together as a
nation; or rather only sow increased division? Does dishonoring our
ancestors of over a century and a half ago who had absolutely nothing to
do with the very sad events in Charleston do anything to prevent in the
future a deranged and misguided young man, a loner, truly intent on
killing innocent people? Does stigmatizing the ancestors of one, very
large group of North Carolinians help heal and resolve the issues
affecting all Tar Heels today?
We of the North Carolina Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, ask
our political leaders, including Governor McCrory, and our fellow
citizens, not to give in and react unreasonably to the deranged, hateful
actions of one crazed gunman by punishing and stigmatizing thousands of
law-abiding Tar Heel citizens who only wish to honor the bravery of
their ancestors. The attempts to ban our symbols could well become a
slippery slope for an agenda that seems to be developing to ban other
symbols and incriminate other portions of our nation’s diverse
population, when what is sorely needed today is mutual respect and
If a rabid fox comes out of the woods and bites someone, the solution is not to burn the woods down, but to stop the rabid fox.
We urge our fellow citizens to check us out, access our web site and contact us: www.ncscv.org
On July 2, 2015, CNN released the result of a comprehensive national
poll revealing the views of Americans on the Confederate Battle Flag.
57% nationally see it as a symbol of Southern pride, and only 33% see
it as in any way “racist.” And certainly here in North Carolina that
favorability rating is much higher. The thousands of members of the
North Carolina Division of the SCV, their families and friends, and many
others who honor our heritage, urge the governor not to sow anger and
discord. Remember, we also vote.
J. Daniel Bolick
Commander, North Carolina Division,
Sons of Confederate Veterans