Just because Confederate flags and similar symbols
have been ripped down from most public places, don`t
imagine the crusade against them is over.
Now that the battle against Confederate symbols on
public property has been largely won, the battle against
the same symbols on private property is just starting.
For South Carolina restaurateur Maurice Bessinger,
the war is already a couple of years old. Mr.
Bessinger`s barbecue restaurant in Columbia, S.C. has
long displayed a Confederate flag outside on a pole in
the parking lot, and inside the owner distributed
tracts and pamphlets about the Confederacy, the War
Between the States and related issues. Once the war
Confederate flag on top of South Carolina`s capitol
dome lurched into
high gear a few years ago, Mr. Bessinger`s
establishment — indeed his very business — was dragged
Mr. Bessinger manufactures a
barbecue sauce that was sold at large chain stores
Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie. All of a sudden, that
stopped. The stores
refused to carry his brand anymore, some of them
(Wal-Mart, for example) claiming piously that they
didn`t condone the slavery Mr. Bessinger supposedly
defended. (He doesn`t.)
Of course, not condoning slavery didn`t stop Wal-Mart
from selling products manufactured by
slave labor in Communist China, as Business Week
reported around the same time. Of course again,
slave labor had nothing to do with it.
The real reason the stores dropped Mr. Bessinger`s
sauce (as he disclosed in an open letter to the public)
was that some people were mounting a concerted campaign
of vandalism against his product on the shelves of the
stores that carried it. Bottles were found opened or
smashed in the aisles at stores across several Southern
With most products, the stores would have deployed
security guards or video cameras and hauled the vandals
But everyone knew who the vandals were and what race
they belonged to, so no one dared take action.
The action they did dare take was to drop Mr.
Bessinger`s sauce, costing him even today some $5
million a year, and wrap themselves in sonorities about
"not condoning slavery."
Now, yet another non-condoner of slavery has popped
up, the mammoth corporation
SCANA based in South Carolina itself. As the
Washington Post reported this week, SCANA has
suddenly decided that its employees can`t park company
vehicles in Mr. Bessinger`s parking lot or display the
Confederate flag on their own personal cars in the
company`s parking lot. ["In S.C., Flag Dispute
Enters Private Sector,"Manuel Roig-Franzia,
Washington Post, Sept 1,
But in South Carolina the Good Old Cause is not
entirely lost, and the company`s actions sparked massive
protests, with marches outside the company headquarters
and one state legislator suggesting he`d look into
repealing the company`s monopoly on gas and
The company`s attack on Mr. Bessinger "just hit me as
a basic slap at free speech and freedom of statement,"
state Sen. Glenn McConnell told the Post. "What
they`re doing is discriminating against a man`s business
because of his political beliefs…. You`re getting on
a slippery slope."
Actually, we`re quite a ways down the slippery slope,
and we got there long before corporate behemoths like
SCANA pushed us down it. When black radicals began
whining about the Confederate flag some years ago, their
claim was that they didn`t care if you
displayed the flag on private property; they just
objected to it on public sites like the state capitol.
Now we see the real agenda, which was to strip away
the flag and similar symbols
completely, including on private property like Mr.
Bessinger`s restaurant and the SCANA parking lot.
Once the protests started, SCANA apparently got
frightened, as corporate behemoths tend to do when you
yell at them loudly enough. One spokesman said the
bumper sticker ban was still in effect, while the chief
executive officer said it wasn`t. He also told the
threatening lawmaker that his own great-grandfather
fought for the Confederacy.
That`s the kind of grease that a few squeaks of the
wheel can win.
The Post says Mr. Bessinger is "obsessed with
the past" because of his flag and the tracts and
pamphlets he distributes, but of course the
NAACP and the boys who push for
reparations for slavery aren`t "obsessed with the
past" because they want to abolish every visible
symbol of a major part of the Southern heritage and
As long as that kind of
non-obsession with the past flourishes and as long
as corporations spout the cant of "not condoning
slavery" even as they peddle goods made by real slave
labor today, you can expect the war against white,
Southern and Confederate symbols to stay in business.
If the targets of the war want to stop it, they`ll
have to fight it the way Mr. Bessinger and his friends
are fighting it now.
September 05, 2002