Georgia's Flag Referendum: Economic Man (And Friends) vs. American Man

Just in time for Black History Month, Southern heritage activists in Georgia are resurrecting a little white history of their own, and predictably the anti-white lobby doesn't much care for it.

But beyond the possibility that something out of the white past might actually be honored, what the white-haters also hate is the prospect of a little plain old democracy.

When the new, Republican governor of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, was running for the statehouse last year, he vowed to hold a state referendum on restoring a Confederate flag design to the state flag that his Democratic predecessor cut out. Now, after some hesitation, Gov. Perdue has committed himself to the promised vote, and some folks aren't happy about it.

Among those unhappy is state Sen. Vincent D. Fort, whom the New York Times describes as "a leader of the black caucus" in the state legislature. "If there had been a referendum in Georgia in 1860 on slavery," he told the Times, "I'd still be picking cotton." [Georgia Gov. in a Pickle Over Flag Pledge, By Jeffrey Gettleman, NYT, Jan. 20, 2003]

What's interesting about this statement is the fear and hatred of the state's white majority it betrays. Mr. Fort assumes that

(a) restoring the Confederate flag to the state flag is analogous to slavery itself, and

(b) the voters of Georgia today are not very different from those of 1860.

Talk about somebody who can't let go of the past!

But Mr. Fort also assumes that letting the whole people of Georgia decide what their own flag is going to look like is objectionable in itself. In 2000, when Gov. Roy Barnes contrived to remove the Confederate emblem in the old state flag, he did it in cahoots with the legislature, not the voters.

That's why Mr. Barnes isn't governor anymore. "You can't imagine the anger," one partisan of the flag told the Times, and when Mr. Perdue vowed to support a referendum on the issue, he won a massive turnout of the state's white voters.

Race-baiters like the black caucus' Mr. Fort are one side of the flag issue in Georgia, but the state also has a fair share of Economic Men who don't want the state's Southern and Confederate heritage to get in the way of business. They're mainly afraid that such beacons of freedom as Mr. Fort and his allies will sponsor boycotts of the state to bludgeon it into dumping the flag.

"We can't afford any more economic losses," whines Rep. Denise Majette. "A referendum would be detrimental," worries a spokesman for of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Threats of boycotts against South Carolina and Mississippi, which also bucked the anti-white lobby on the Confederate flag issue, turned out to be inconsequential or non-existent, so much of the economic argument is not only wrong but probably insincere anyway.

Nevertheless, it's an argument that many whites will swallow, if only because the triumph of Economic Man has helped erase a good deal of allegiance to or knowledge of white Southern heritage.

Indeed, it's fairly clear that Georgia, like other Southern states and indeed states not in the South as well, already possesses a split cultural personality.

On the one hand, there are the people who felt the anger when a central symbol of their identity as a people and a state was stripped out of their own flag without their consent. To them the Confederate flag may or may not have something to do with race, with the Late Unpleasantness of the American Civil War or with what Sen. Trent Lott coyly called "all these problems" we've had ever since desegregation took place. But what the flag certainly has to do with is who and what the people of Georgia are—and with what they want to be and who is going to decide.

On the other hand there is the peculiar alliance between professional anti-white activists like the ladies and gentlemen of the black caucus and the business elites who just want to make money and are terrified any display of cultural heritage will threaten that. Except for their shared distaste for that heritage, they have little in common, and it will be interesting to see how well they can work together in a campaign against the flag.

It's entirely appropriate that the whole people of the state will get to vote on the flag issue and decide it one way or the other for good—or at least until the forces that hate the flag and the people it symbolizes can come up with some new excuse to take it down.

How the referendum comes out will tell us as well as the voters themselves what kind of people and what kind of identity they are.

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[Sam Francis [email him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection of his columns, America Extinguished: Mass Immigration And The Disintegration Of American Culture, is now available from Americans For Immigration Control.]