Dixie Flag Manufacturing Co., the San Antonio manufacturer owned and operated by Pete Van de Putte, the spouse of mayoral runoff candidate and former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, has reversed course and announced it is halting production and sales of Confederate flags. The company had previously defended its sales of Confederate flags as historical items.
The decision comes in the wake of growing national objection to the sale and public display of the Confederate flag, which is seen by many as a symbolic evocation of the pro-slavery South and the 150 years of racism that has persisted since the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Multiple national retailers and e-commerce sites, including Amazon and e-Bay, announced Monday that Confederate flag sales would be eliminated or banned.
Previous racially motivated acts of violence have failed to force the removal of the Confederate flag from its place of prominence at various Southern institutions, including the South Carolina Capital building. This time seems different.
The racially motivated killings last Wednesday of nine innocent and unarmed African-Americans attending prayer services inside the Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, SC by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old misfit and avowed racist, seems to have provoked a greater wave of national revulsion, even in the Deep South among many white conservative political figures.
The revulsion has built with each passing day, guided in no small part by emotional public statements by President Obama and scenes of mourning. Defenders of the Confederate flag as a cultural symbol seem more isolated and on the defensive.
"We don't need to promote symbols that divide," Pete Van de Putte told the San Antonio Business Journal. "We need to promote symbols that unite people."
A photo of Roof holding a Confederate flag went viral after he was identified as the shooter on the run, sparked the initial wave of objection to the flag and media attention.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the permanent removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol on Monday after substantial public outcry, while legislators have agreed only to debate the matter later next month, perhaps hoping the protests will die down by then and permit its continued official display.
*Featured/top image: Leticia Van de Putte greets a crowd with her husband Pete (left) during her campaign for mayor in early June. Photo by Scott Ball.