Rick Perry Faces a Difficult Decision

The Texas governor must appoint a DMV member who may or may not support Confederate license plates.

Posted: 08/17/2011 08:26 AM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a decision to make about a racially sensitive issue, just as he’s getting his presidential bid off the ground. He must appoint a new board member to his state’s Department of Motor Vehicles board, which is weighing whether to approve plates that would feature the Confederate flag, Reuters reports.

 

When the nine-member group met earlier this year to cast their votes, one member was absent, resulting in a tie. They were set to vote again in June, when another member unexpectedly died. The person that Perry appoints will likely be a tie-breaker. He is in an unenviable position, as interest groups attempt to sway him to appoint someone who will see the issue their way.

 

“We just don’t think that this sort of a racist relic should be licensed by the state or should be used in any way by the state of Texas," Mark Glazer, executive director of the liberal organization Progress Texas, told Reuters.

 

According to Glazer, his organization has solicited thousands of signatures for an online petition asking Perry to appoint a DMV board member who will oppose the Confederate plate. The Texas NAACP chapter shares their view.

 


“Many would view that, frankly, as treason,” said Hilary Shelton, who heads the civil rights organization’s Washington bureau. “The Confederates meant to destroy the existing governmental structure. But when we dig deeper, the issue becomes even more offensive to many African-Americans and those who sought freedom for those of darker skin in our country.”

 

Granvel Block, who commands the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has an entirely different view. He says that the plates, which were requested by his group, would honor Texans who fought for the Confederacy, which, he argues, included African-Americans in the final months of the Civil War. The plates would feature the SCV logo and the Confederate Jack flag. Proceeds from the sales of the plates would be used to place markers on Confederate soldiers’ graves.

 

“This is not about slavery. This is not about race,” Block said. “Our intention is to honor and acknowledge the pride that we have in our ancestors and in our organization, as well.”

 

Graves said it would be the “gravest discrimination” for the state to honor requests from other federally recognized nonprofits and reject his.

 

The matter places Perry in a precarious position and also could provide ammunition for his political rivals, who are none too pleased that he’s joined them on the presidential campaign trail, no matter how welcoming they’ve pretended to be. He reportedly once flirted with the idea of the Lone Star State seceding from the rest of the nation, which was later dismissed as a joke. He’s probably not laughing now.

(Photo: Richard Ellis/Getty Images)

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