Why I Decided to Sell – and Then Not Sell – The Confederate Battle Flag

Since I founded, people have always sent me letters – and now emails – asking me to stop selling all kinds of flags. In 2003, when France declined to join America in the invasion of Iraq, I received letters to stop selling the French flag. Since the adoption of the rainbow flag by the LGBTQ community, I have received hate letters about selling it. For some, it is a symbol of love while others believe it symbolizes sin.

As for us who sell flags and talk with our customers and hear all their stories, we know that we supply an emotionally charged product. American flags flank graves and caskets, sports flags show allegiances, and state flags create solidarity. Rarely a night goes by on TV without a news story showing flags waving.

So, in 2015, after the South Carolina church shooting, when all the media attention turned from gun control to flag waving, I took my usual stance of no censorship in the flag business, quoting Abraham Lincoln: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all the people all of the time.”  

As I said in a press conference on the front sidewalk of the building, freedom of speech is what makes America great, which includes waving the flag of your choice. And, frankly, I just figured it would blow over soon. I was wrong.

This year, three things happened that caused me to revisit my earlier decision. Last month, in Saskatchewan, Canada, a local homeowner hoisted a Nazi and a Confederate battle flag on his home TV tower, igniting racial tension among the Pasqua First Nation tribe. What?! Historically, the Confederate battle flag had nothing to do with the Nazi’s. Now, it was being equated to a symbol used to incite genocide. I was taken aback. And it’s still happening.

On another news story, a woman west of Little Rock, Arkansas proudly displayed the Confederate battle flag from her front yard and, on a tree in her yard, hung a mannequin of a black person by its neck. What?! Are we going backwards in our culture and understanding of the consequences for this kind of behavior?

And lastly, this past year our dreams were met with a $499,000 gift from the National Park Service Civil Rights Grant program to restore the historically significant, African-American meeting hall on the third story of my building: The Dreamland Ballroom. In 2009, I founded a non-profit, the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom, to restore this space to its former glory. Our vision has always been to bring people together and make it a safe place for everyone. The juxtaposition of trying to create a safe place on the third floor of my building and of selling what has become a hate symbol on the first floor of my building has made me reevaluate my 2015 decision.

I am a Southern Woman and in no way do I want to forget or dishonor our young men and families that gave so much, so long ago. Those servicemen, both black and white, may have fought and died for decisions made in ignorance but their duty and honor was never in doubt.

My decision to stop selling the Rebel flag is not to dishonor the veterans and life’s sacrificed history, which most people don’t know realize the Battle Flag is a veterans flag. The official flag of the Confederacy is the Stars and Bars along with the Bonnie Blue. I want to believe our nation is more educated and wiser and through remembrance of our ancestors history, we will learn as a nation.

And so, on Saturday, June 15th, in celebration of Juneteenth, will be aligning its policies with the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom by honoring their motto to make Taborian Hall a safe place for everyone and will no longer sell the Confederate Battle Flag.

Update: View the Press Release regarding Kerry’s decision and check out the headline as it makes it’s way across the Cision marquee in Times Square, below.