I can’t say I was a big fan of Marietta’s Bobby Franklin. The man knew how to put the “far” in the far right. But he said something during Georgia’s infamous flag debate that has always resonated with me.
The compromise flag that emerged was the idea of one of the most conservative members of the House, Representative Bobby Franklin, Republican of Marietta. A former member and camp commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mr. Franklin wrote recently that ”allowing hate groups and white supremacists to hijack the Confederate battle flag and pervert it into a negative symbol without publicly and repeatedly repudiating them has been a grievous moral failure.”
In other words, organizations like the Sons of Confederate Veterans that want to insist they’re taking an honorable stand by defending symbols and standards of the Confederacy fail to recognize they lost the moral high ground they believe they’re entitled to occupy when they didn’t fight to preserve their integrity as unsavory groups appropriated those same symbols and standards for their own racist ends. And that’s why folks like the Sons of Confederate Veterans aren’t entitled to the benefit of the doubt now when they try to reclaim that position.
It’s also why, as much as I’m willing to acknowledge there are plenty of people of good will who are sincerely offended by the latest racial incident that occurred at Ole Miss – ironically, complete with that very Georgia state flag Bobby Franklin wrote about – I’m having a hard time working up a lot of sympathy for Hugh Freeze about the difficulties incidents like that may cause him on the recruiting trail. As John Pennington notes,
Fair or not, the University of Mississippi’s history is tied to racism. The Confederacy’s economy — everything about the Old South, for that matter — was based on slavery. Yet the school’s athletic teams are called the Rebels in a reference to the Confederate States of America. The school’s athletic teams often wear gray in addition to their red and navy colors. Hell, the statue of Meredith isn’t far from a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UM campus.
It is impossible to separate the school or its sports teams from the Confederacy and the racism that was ingrained in that institution.
Ole Miss coaches have complained about this unwanted legacy since Billy Brewer’s time. That it’s still a perceived issue for the school says a lot, sadly.