Controversy Over New Downtown Restaurant’s Use Of Confederate Flag

Hillbilly Heaven, Hamilton’s Infamous Southern BBQ. Is opening it’s new location in downtown Hamilton on March 11 2013.

Sticking with the southern theme of the restaurant, store owner Cameron Bailey decided to use the confederate flag (also known as: the “Southern Cross” or “the cross of St. Andrew”) on the store sign.

Some people have taken offense to this, and have taken action. First there was a complaint filed with the city of Hamilton, by Manish Butani.

To: The Mayor, City Council & Staff, City of Hamilton and the Local Media

A new eating establishment is opening up next month in the International Village and they have chosen to affix the “Confederate flag” very proudly on their store signage. This storefront is located on a very prominant corner of the International Village on King Street East and Walnut Street North.

Most of us are old enough to know the true significance of this flag and the deeply disturbing meaning that it holds for the local Black community in particular, as well as for the various ethnic cultures who have made this neighbourhood their home and place of work.

This business already has a history of toying with the sentiments of the ethnic communities on the east mountain. Back then, the local media in its wisdom or lack of it, chose to play the role of a bystander/observer, and in the process ended up further demeaning the feeling of many residents.

As expected, such pandering has only empowered this business to now come into the very core of this city and continue with its games of playing with the sentiments of the local black & other ethnic communities.

For those in the local media who are still clueless as to what this flag symbolizes and how hurtful it is to many in our community, below are a few recent articles from the US on this issue which highlight how local communities, organizations and even city administrations have dealt with such highly dangerous cultural games.

Does Downtown Hamilton need this kind of digression at this stage of its re-growth?
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This was followed with a response from ward 2 councilor Jason Farr.

“I can advise that the City’s Sign By-law does not deal with the content/message of signs, except to regulate third party signage, nor does the Municipal Act provide authority to do so.”
Source

Now the storefront has been vandalized. Black and red paint is splattered on the confederate flag, and the side wall had been spray painted with the word “Antifa zone,” a reference to anti-fascism.

Cameron Bailey, in response to the vandalism stated: “Stupid is as stupid does,”, “Next time they vandalize it, I’d prefer they make it legible. I don’t like it.”. He has also stated that the graffiti has only strengthened his resolve to keep the flag up.

“I’m not going to let a bunch of media people, academics or hipsters intimidate me. If the Supreme Court of Canada tells me to take it down, I’ll take it down. But other than that, never.”
Source

I personally agree with Jason Farr’s response. Until we are under a state that employs thought police (sadly we are not far away from that), the city has no business intervening in a situation like this. The confederate flag is one of those inanimate objects. That can mean different things to different people. To some it is a symbol of slavery/racism and to others it is a symbol of southern United States heritage. In fact a large majority of people do not see it to be racist at all. An example of that is an online poll where 95% of the people who answered said the flag is not racist (can be viewed at debate.org)

Another problem with this situation is the total lack of knowledge surrounding the flag. In a recent CBC Hamilton article about the store. Gerald Horne, history professor at the University of Houston is quoted “What kind of so-called Canadian patriot will fly the flag of a now-forgotten nation that intended an attack on his homeland? This, to me, is outrageous”.

Since when does opening a store constitute as being a “patriot”? And by the way, the south may have considered invading Canada, But where they behind the war of 1812?

Lets take a look at why the flag is seen as being racist. The main reason behind this can be summed up in this statement by the Southern Poverty of Law Center, “many hate groups have begun using this flag to represent hate.” (under this logic the Hindu’s who still use the swastika are racists because the Nazi’s adopted it as their symbol)

The flag’s history comes from the civil war era, it was the south’s battle flag (which both white and black people proudly fought under). For this reason many people in the southern states consider it to be part of their heritage and a vital part of American history. The confederate flag flew next to the American flag and the state flag, in many states in previous years.

Many people will say that it is a symbol that represents racist ideals and that the south was fighting to keep slavery. Which is a hard sell to me considering:

- Abraham Lincoln espoused racism, as supported by his letters.

- The American flag (stars and stripes) flew above ships carrying slaves for 84 years, as did the Union Jack of Britain. (are they considered racist?)

- At the time of the civil war, southern confederate states simply wanted to leave the Union. They were under the impression that they joined voluntarily and likewise they could leave. Unfair taxes, export tariffs, and states rights were what the civil war was about. Not slavery.

Sadly at that point of time, both the north and the south took part in slavery. Lincoln simply used it as a rallying cry for the war.

When all is said and done. If these people are going to label the confederate flag as racist, they should be doing the same about the American and British flags (and many, many others).

It is sad when in this day and age, people are still attempting to blame objects for the actions of some people/groups.

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