South Carolina and Mississippi are not the only states that flaunt pro-slavery symbolism. Though no one seems to notice, Florida’s familiar state flag, with its red diagonal cross, or saltire, is the most overtly racist state symbol in the United States.
The state flag, which residents of Florida often see several times a day, is nothing other than the Confederate Battle Flag with the state seal of Florida superimposed on it.
The pro-slavery flag, adopted in a whites-only referendum in 1906, was the culmination of a white-supremacy campaign by former Gov. Francis Fleming.
A fervent racist, Fleming was also a consummate hypocrite, never revealing that he had black siblings, nieces and nephews. His multiracial family — which would be a subject of pride today — was too shameful to be made public back then.
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In other states the persistence of pro-slavery symbolism has generated controversy, and change, though not in Florida. To this day Florida’s pro-slavery state flag continues to fly, unprotested, over highway patrol outposts, toll booths and post offices, as well over the state capitol and Florida’s public schools. As I point out in my book, Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State, “No one seems to notice that Florida’s most conspicuous state symbol still celebrates armed insurrection against the United States.”
My point here is that racism is not some Deep South Dixiecrat idiosyncrasy. As events from Staten Island and Baltimore to Cleveland and Ferguson have demonstrated, this is a country that juridically condones the murder of unarmed black people in every region.
In this as in other matters, Florida is the truth-teller state. In this case, the truth is that the murder of Miami teenager Trayvon Martin — hardly mentioned any more — was not some sort of quirky Florida aberration.
Like a lot of what happens in Florida, it was part of a national trend which, in addition to tolerating the killing of unarmed black people, also includes obliviousness to the racist symbolism all around us.
T.D. Allman,Sorrento, Italy