Mississippi Proposes License Plate Honoring Confederate General, KKK Grand Wizard

This strikes me as being precisely not the kind of publicity Haley Barbour would like if he really is running for President:

BILOXI, Mississippi — A Mississippi proposal to issue a state license plate honoring a Confederate general believed to be a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan has stirred protest and resurrected the state’s ugly racial past.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed that Mississippi issue a specialty plate honoring General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who many historians say was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist group that terrorized blacks in the South after the Civil War.

Forrest is the only individual they want to commemorate. All the other plates would be in remembrance of battles that took place in Mississippi or Confederate veterans as a whole.

The proposal must be approved by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Haley Barbour.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sent a letter to Barbour on Friday saying it would be immoral and unconstitutional to honor a KKK leader.

“We are asking the governor to stop this action immediately. Every fair-minded southerner knows that the Civil War was a negative time in history and having a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan on the back of vehicles will only tarnish the state’s image,” NAACP state president Derrick Johnson said.

(…)

Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organization that honors Confederate heritage, wants the state to issue the series of license plates to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.\

This wouldn’t be the first racially tinged controversy that Barbour has dealt with recently. Just before Christmas, he was quoted in a Weekly Standard interview as saying that the civil rights era “wasn’t that bad,” a comment that he later apologized for. Before that, back in March, he dismissed those criticizing his decision to sign a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month. Stuff like this may not be a big deal in Mississippi or elsewhere in the Deep South, but I doubt it plays very well anywhere else. and Barbour would be advised to proceed accordingly if her really does want to mount a Presidential bid.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Good for them.




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  2. Mike M. says:

    Why not a license plate honoring the man who disbanded the original KKK?




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  3. James Joyner says:

    The agency here is misplaced. “Mississippi” isn’t proposing anything. The Sons of Confederate Veterans are proposing, through the process available in almost every state, to create a specialized plate. To do that, they’re affirming that they have enough people lined up to purchase said plate if approved.

    But I strongly suspect that the legislature won’t approve the plate and the governor won’t sign off on it. Unless either of those things happen, this is just a faux outrage.




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  4. jwest says:

    James,

    Thank you for admonishing Doug about the disgraceful headline. What is going on with him? He’s starting to establish a pattern.

    Although I have a lot of disagreements with most of the authors here, I would rather OTB not be turned into an internet joke.




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  5. PD Shaw says:

    James, I seem to recall that once a state makes this platform available on a license plate, they don’t have the discretition to discriminate on the viewpoint. As I recall there are a lot of court cases all over the map.




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  6. James Joyner says:

    @jwest: Doug’s using a variant of the headline of the MSNBC/Reuters story, which is the meme that’s going around. I do that all the time, for a variety of purposes, but do try to demolish the memes in the story when appropriate.

    @PD Shaw: I’m guessing that there’s a public policy exception for racist terrorists.




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  7. PD Shaw says:

    James, I suppose it depends on what the plate actually looks like, but at least according to the Virginia based federal court, you can’t discriminate against the Confederate flag on these license plates:

    “The 4th Circuit ruled in Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Commissioner of the Virginia Dept. of Motor Vehicles that the logo ban for the Sons of Confederate Veterans was viewpoint discriminatory because “the logo restriction not only prohibits speech on the basis of its content … but also, by its terms, burdens the speech of only a single speaker in the forum.” The court noted that no other specialty plate provision in the state contained a similar logo ban.”

    More at the link, but it appears to depend on whether the courts see these specialty plates as a public forum or a limited public forum.

    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/speech/personal/topic.aspx?topic=license_plates




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  8. MarkedMan says:

    For those who support the right of people to buy this particular license plate, what about one that had the swastika, as a logo for the neo-nazis? How about one that had the Cambodian flag from the Pol-Pot era? This problem arises whenever we use the government as a vehicle for certain groups to promote their agenda. I don’t care if it’s license plates, or school prayer or putting up nativity scenes on the town green. If you allow one group, how do you disallow another? Conservatives have a tendency to believe that you just need ‘right minded people’ making the decision and we’ll be certain to eliminate all the ‘bad’ ideas being promoted, while liberals tend to think you can craft just the right set of laws and regulations to ensure no one is offended. Personally, I think the best way is to not have them in the first place.




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  9. michael reynolds says:

    You know what’s convenient about these stories? You don’t have to go looking around for a D or an R to figure it out. If it’s racism it’s Republican.

    Nice brand you guys have.




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  10. James Joyner says:

    @PD Shaw and @MarkedMan: Interesting. And, yes, if they’re considered open to all comers provided a sales threshold is met, it’s a huge potential problem. It’s one of dozens of creative ways states have come up with to generate marginal revenue, though, so I don’t see it going away.




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  11. MarkedMan says:

    James, this is one of the cases where I’m perfectly fine with the legislature stating their purpose is to promote community and make it explicit that it is not to serve as a political vehicle. So you can use it to promote scottish terriers and golf, but not democrats or republicans. How about groups that could benefit financially from the publicity like professional sports teams or NASCAR? Personally I don’t care much either way, but that should be spelled out in the legislation. It would be interesting to hear from someone who writes legislation as to whether my restrictions are practical.




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  12. jwest says:

    Michael,

    I agree. Some stories are so clear cut that no identification of party is necessary. So when I saw this article about how incompetent fired teachers in DC were being rehired with back pay, I knew immediately that democrats were responsible.

    http://www.myfoxdc.com/dpp/news/dc/arbitrator-rules-dc-public-schools-must-rehire-75-teachers-fired-020811#

    What is more racist? Some hick displaying the Stars and Bars or a pack of rabid liberals, hell bent on continuing generations of ignorance and poverty in the black community in order to gain the votes of the teacher’s union?




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  13. sam says:

    I propose the black folks in Mississippi petition for plate that says, “My family was bought and sold by Nathan Bedford Forrest”. With an appropriate chains and whips logo thingy.

    I mean, fair’s fair, right?




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  14. michael reynolds says:

    jwest:

    Re-hiring incompetent teachers is not racist. Words have meanings. In this case I’d suggest some phrases like, “Brutally indifferent to the needs of students,” or “contemptibly self-serving.” Not racist.

    Fortunately the Democrats are not alone in being indifferent to the needs of students or trapped in an outmoded paradigm.

    But the GOP does own racism, and yes, that’s what it is when you honor a thug and war criminal and terrorist like Forrest.




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  15. jwest says:

    Michael,

    Let’s stop referring to “slaves” and “slaveholders”. They were simply people trapped in an outmoded paradigm by contemptibly self-serving owners brutally indifferent to black’s needs.

    It does sound much better that way.

    I have found there is nothing a liberal can’t rationalize. As for the kids in DC, I’m sure they will be glad to hear that it’s not racism at work here. Although the thought of a situation like this taking place in an predominantly white district is beyond imagination, these soon-to-be-unemployable students are less important than the rights (incredibly manufactured out of thin air) of these teachers.




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  16. michael reynolds says:

    jwest:

    No, slave and slaveholder are still apt word choices.

    Look, dude, words mean specific things. So you can’t just randomly mix them up or communication becomes impossible. “Racism” is a particular thing. The definition is not, “Everything that can be construed as injurious to some group of predominantly black people.” Normally conservatives insist on narrow word definitions, you’re insisting it be broadened in a way that many race-hustlers might like, but that doesn’t hold up logically, and that you would in other circumstances find overly broad.




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  17. PD Shaw says:

    I’d be curious how much states make off these speciality licenses; it may be a revenue maker for some, but I really wonder if on the smaller issues whether it’s a form of pork to special interest groups.

    I’ve got conservation plates because I like the design; the proceeds of which go to a government agency that does about 50% I support and 50% I don’t.




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  18. PD Shaw says:

    I’d buy a license plat that was derrogatory to Forrest, but only if had a bit of style.




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  19. tom p says:

    “Let’s stop referring to “slaves” and “slaveholders”. They were simply people trapped in an outmoded paradigm by contemptibly self-serving owners brutally indifferent to black’s needs.”

    SAY WHAT?????????

    “I’d be curious how much states make off these speciality licenses;”

    Not much, if any PD… the threshold is so low.

    As for the MS plate honoring NB Forrest, I say let them… any body who has one on their vehicle we will know is a racist a** #ole and we can just sh…. oh wait a minute, I can’t say that.




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  20. wr says:

    Michael Reynolds — It’s sad to see you falling for jwest’s crap. Even the Fox (!) article at the link doesn’t pretend to claim these teachers were incompetent. They were seventy five out of the 2,000 Michelle Rhee fired instead of actually doing anything to improve teaching in the DC school system, and they were fired without any opportunity to defend themselves. She swung a big axe and apparently took out a bunch of people who didn’t deserve it. Now DC is going to pay for her recklessness and disregard for other people.

    But that’s okay, because Michelle Rhee is now a star on the lecture circuit, and will soon be very rich.




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  21. michael reynolds says:

    wr:

    Damn. You’re right. When will I learn that these wingnuts don’t provide honest links? I feel like Charlie Brown. In the future I will not trust, but verify.




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  22. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner: you referred to NBF as a racist terrorist. If that description is apt (and I believe it is), then it should be easy for Barbour to make this story go away by simply announcing that he will not be signing this plate into effect.

    So that’s going to happen on Monday morning, right? I mean, what is the explanation for not making such an announcement? It could only be that he wants to maintain the support of people who venerate a racist terrorist. Surely nobody who is considered a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination would wish to maintain the support of those people, right?




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  23. The Congressional Committee (House of Representatives) in 1871 … reported that Forrest “did NOT found the KKK, did not participate in it, was not its leader, and lent his influence to disband it” in 1869.

    It was widely rumored that Forrest was a member, but that was because many of the forming members used his name as a recruiting tool. His reputation as an intimidating warrior was sterling and he was feared by his enemies. Sherman (who referred to the general as “that Devil Forrest”) and various Radical Republicans were part of the investigation, so we know there no whitewash and no sweeping under the rug.

    Do you prefer to believe popular myth, rumor and smear? Or the official records and congressional records?




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  24. James Joyner says:

    @TG: I’m not sure Barbour has any obligation to issue public statements about license plate applications.

    @Steve Scroggins: It’s an established fact that Forrest was an active member of the original KKK. The only thing in dispute is whether he was a Grand Wizard.




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  25. @James Joyner: “Established” where? Cite source, please. What’s an “active” member as opposed to say, a regular member…or honorary member or …?
    The resources of the U.S. Government could find no such evidence in 1871.




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  26. Billy Bearden says:

    The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has PROPOSED a specialty plate for 2015 to commemorate the wartime exploits of Lt General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

    It took the left to make it an issue over ‘slavery’ and ‘kkk’ which of course is not the subject. Slavery then, as aborition is now, a way of life. Logic dictates any attempt at passing moral judgement on a civilization (or person) who lived 2 centuries ago is, well, just plain stupid. If stupid is too harsh a word, then dumb.

    If it were someone else, perhaps a person who was into genocide as was Andrew Jackson, or a virulent anti semite, as was US Grant, or someone who beat women, cheated on thier spouse, lied and cheated to gain a Doctorate, as did King – then thier place in Americana would be assured, but for the man who caused the original Klan to disband, and whose military tactics are still studied by our best young soldiers (Schawrtzkoff used them in Desert Storm) Well, the left seems to have a problem with that…..




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  27. An Interested Party says:

    Awww…the defense of Forrest is so adoreable…

    “It took the left to make it an issue over ‘slavery’ and ‘kkk’ which of course is not the subject.”

    Forrest was a member of the KKK and fought for a bunch of folks who committed treason so that they could defend slavery so both issues are very much part of the subject…

    “Slavery then, as aborition is now, a way of life.”

    A way of life mostly in the parts of the country where people committed treason because of it…certainly not in most other parts of the country…

    “Logic dictates any attempt at passing moral judgement on a civilization (or person) who lived 2 centuries ago is, well, just plain stupid…”

    It’s good to know that “logic dictates” that passing moral judgement on, say, Hitler, or Stalin, in the year 2150 will be just plain stupid…

    Oh, and if you want to place Nathan Bedford Forrest on a higher moral level or even on the same moral level as Martin Luther King, Jr., well…I don’t think many people would agree with that judgement…




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  28. TG Chicago says:

    @Joyner — My point is that when there is zero downside to sending out a quick release, and there’s significant upside (and killing a negative story on MSNBC is a pretty significant upside), you send out the release. Barbour won’t. Because he knows that he needs the support of people who venerate a racist terrorist.

    One would like to think that “not willing to offend racists” would be a disqualifying characteristic for a serious political party candidate in the 21st century. But he’s a Republican, so here we are.




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  29. James says:

    As an African American man with roots in Mississippi and Tennessee as far back as slavery I think this idea is appalling and highly insulting.

    HOWEVER!!!!!!

    George Washington
    Thomas Jefferson
    James Madison
    James Monroe
    Andrew Jackson
    Martin Van Buren
    William Henry Harrison
    John Tyler
    and Andrew Johnson

    …were all slave holders at during their presidency or at some point in their lives yet we honor them every day on our money and in many other ways. Just because the Union won the war and the Confederacy lost the war doesn’t make the north less culpable for the atrocity of slavery. Any level of owning slaves inevitably lead to the overseeing of beating slaves either directly or indirectly. i think there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides of this argument and mixed messages as we honor some slave owners and others as vilans based on who won or who lost the war.




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  30. James says:

    As an African American man with roots in Mississippi and Tennessee as far back as slavery I think this idea is appalling and highly insulting.

    HOWEVER!!!!!!

    George Washington
    Thomas Jefferson
    James Madison
    James Monroe
    Andrew Jackson
    Martin Van Buren
    William Henry Harrison
    John Tyler
    and Andrew Johnson

    …were all slaveholders during their presidency or at some point in their lives, yet we honor them every day on our money, on holidays and in many other ways.

    Also:

    President Warren G. Harding,
    President Woodrow Wilson,
    President McKinley,
    President Calvin Coolidge,
    and President Harry S. Truman.

    …Were all members of the KKK at some point.

    Just because the Union won the war and the Confederacy lost the war doesn’t make the Union less culpable for the atrocity of slavery. Any level of owning slaves inevitably lead to the overseeing of beating slaves either directly or indirectly. I think there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides of this argument and mixed messages as we honor some slave owners as hero’s and others as villans based on who won or lost the war. What’s the difference between slave holding Confederate general and a slave holding Union president? Morally there’s no difference. If we are going to celebrate slave holding presidents and presidential KKK members, I say let them have their licence plate to make sure that we as Americans are at least consistent in our hypocrisy.

    ….And lets not even talk about presidential atrocities against Native Americans for which I also have Native American heritage.

    This list does not even include presidents that we honor who were simply racist even though they were not slave owners nor KKK members probably only because it was already illegal or unpopular.

    Let’s not scapegoat the Son of The Confederacy Group as if they alone pioneered racism. At least they and other groups like them have the guts to be up front about it as opposed to the rest of America who are just as racist but hypocrits.

    There’s no difference between putting a Confederate flag on a licence plate and Showing T.V. shows and commercials with token blacks, or making a furturistic sci-fi film were there are none or just one or two blacks in the future.




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