Not content with its license plates featuring a stoic bald eagle design or tribute to the Race Car Hall of Fame, Georgia is again offering a personalized tag featuring the Confederate flag and a logo for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Confederate flag plate is now available on the state's Department of Revenue website, alongside other fetching and less-offensive designs.
For now, you can blame the Georgia Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that ultimately approves proposal designs for speciality plates. The new plates were designed by the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and are listed under the "Special Interest" group of the vanity plates section, included in a list with the Georgia Association of Realtors and Amateur Radio.
The new tags replace a older version of the license plate that also featured the Confederate flag and Sons of Confederate Veterans logo, which the state sold 439 times. There are already 35 orders for the new version, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the Journal-Constitution, the move has upset civil rights activists and came as a surprise for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal. "I hadn't heard that so I don’t know anything about it. I’ll have to talk to them about it. I had no information in advance about it," Deal said.
This is not the first time the controversial Confederate flag has been included on materials issued by the state and used as a symbol of Georgia's heritage. The Georgia state flag has twice featured the Confederate flag, once from 1956-2001 and then again, albeit much smaller, from 2001-2003.
The lingering power of the Confederate flag in Georgia was seen in 2001 with the defeat of former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes. Barnes led a campaign to help change the state flag, but the removal of the Confederate flag was largely viewed as one of the reasons for his loss.
Sons of Confederate Veterans spokesman Ray McBerry told the Journal-Constitution that he didn't see how the group did anything wrong, and that they didn't mean to offend anyone.
"By sanctioning the plate, they are not saying they agree with our organization. They're just saying it's a level playing field," he said.
But civil rights activists are understandably appalled. Maynard Eatan, spokesman for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called the license plates "reprehensible."
"We don’t have license plates saying 'Black Power,'" he said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.