Thursday, November 29, 2012

Confederate Battle Flags Displayed in Felton Shop Window with Message: "History, Not Hate"

A Thanksgiving trip to The Witch's Cottage, an antique shop located in Felton, revealed what has been a slow moving topic of discussion as of late in the small town located in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains: the shop is currently displaying two Confederate flags in its front windows, along with a hand written statement taped nearby that reads: "History...Not Hate.

One is what appears to be a full sized replica-version of a Confederate battle flag, and the other is a smaller sticker labeled as being produced in 1999 by Eagle Emblems Inc., which sells a variety of military-style, "emblematic" products. 

The shop is located along Highway 9, and in addition to the Confederate flags, two American flags also hang, and visible are stickers with statements supporting the American troops, and a sticker denoting membership in the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce. 

The main shop window is full of what look to be 1970s and 1980s era pop culture curios.

It's uncertain what the "local" reaction will be to the Confederate flags, or if there has been any attempts by the public to communicate with the owner about them. The Witch's Cottage is located in a small and somewhat isolated shopping strip along a state highway that sees very little foot or bicycle traffic.

For comparison, in 2009 a Nazi flag was displayed from an apartment window above Pacific Avenue in a busy location of downtown Santa Cruz, and the resulting protests received coverage by a variety of commercial media outlets. Rapidly, community members who were offended and wanted the flag to be removed began a letter writing campaign aimed at the apartment's owner and management, who then created a rule banning the public display of hate symbols by tenants. The flag was removed shortly after that.

The small towns located along Highway 9 in the San Lorenzo Valley have, like most areas in Santa Cruz County, experienced a regular pattern of racially motivated crime and other incidents over the years.

In 2005, several reported incidents of violence against people of color motivated the community of Boulder Creek to combat it in a variety of ways, including holding a candlelight vigil to make a public statement against racism.

In 2008, the San Lorenzo Valley based organization "For the People" operated in violence intervention and youth development, working with "gang-affiliated" youth. It was mentioned specifically on their website that included those in "white power" gangs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) describes the Confederate flag as a, "state sponsored symbol of white supremacy," and many of that organization's actions include working for the removal of the Confederate flag from governmental and public displays across the country.

The Confederate flags that hang at The Witch's Cottage are of the battle flag variety, and when the Texas NAACP was working to have the Confederate flag removed from license plates in that state, they stated in a press release that, "any objective person should understand that the Confederate Battle Flag represents repression and is a badge of slavery. Besides that, we all know that the Confederacy had an official flag and the Battle Flag was not one that was adopted by the Confederacy nor did it ever fly over Texas. It was adopted by hate groups as a means of expressing anti-Black sentiments and the rest is history. If there was a desire simply to honor one’s ancestors it for certain would not be by using this particular flag."

The Texas NAACP didn't mince words with their arguments, and the organization went on to state that the display of the Confederate flag would lead to the "psychological harm" of African Americans, and that it is a symbol of "discrimination, disrespect and hatred."

The national branch of the NAACP has also worked to have the Confederate flag removed from "private" enterprises, most notably when expressing disappointment with to the band Lynard Skynard when that group recently decided to reverse a decision to remove the Confederate flag from their concerts.

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