Today, for the first time since the civil rights movement, the Confederate flag was officially removed from the South Carolina Statehouse. The six-minute ceremony drew an estimated crowd of ten thousand who collectively cheered as the Civil War-era banner was lowered.
Gov. Nikki Haley stood on the Statehouse steps and watched the event alongside family members of the victims of the June 17 shootings in Charleston in which nine black churchgoers were killed. Days after the tragedy, Gov. Haley re-evaluated her position on the significance of the Confederate flag and pushed for legislation to remove the flag before the end of the summer.
Today’s removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, coupled with the tragic events of the past few weeks, have made many manufacturers stop and question whether they should continue to manufacture the controversial flag. While opponents view the Confederate flag as a reminder of slavery and institutionalized racism, advocates see it as a representation of the South’s heritage.
Now, it’s the manufacturers of Confederate flags that are caught in the middle of this contentious issue.
Reggie Vanden Bosch is the president of the Flag Manufacturers Association of America, which represents about 38 flag manufacturers. In a piece with CNN Money, he said that the industry as a group is definitely discussing the situation, while adding, “We don’t want to cause someone continued pain because of what it (ie. the Confederate flag) represents.”
However, on the flip side, other manufacturers such as Pete Van de Putte, who is president of Dixie Flag Manufacturing in Texas says that his company will continue to make and sell thousands of flags, including the North Korea flag and the gay pride flag.
“I’m aware that there are people who find certain flags offensive,” said Van de Putte. “But if you’re in the business of making flags and symbols, you’re not in the business of making value judgments.”
Also, amid this re-ignited debate about the Confederate flag, some states (including Louisiana and Florida) have reported a dramatic increase in flag sales, even as many manufacturers have made public statements that they will cease its production. Even wholesale flag makers, such as Eder and Valley Forge, have declared their decision to stop making the Confederate flag.
Similarly, other retailers including Target, Amazon.com and Walmart announced plans to pull the Confederate flag and other Confederacy-related products from their websites. Some manufacturers are countering that Confederate flag sales could be replaced with orders for marriage equality flags or gay rights flags given the Supreme Court’s recent decision to legalize gay marriage.
Still, the question remains: Should manufacturers be concerned about the ethical implications of what they produce?
What do you think about this debate? Comment below or tweet me @MNetAbbey.