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Sunday, May 07, 2017

"The backwards rural South remains. ‘Complicated’ Support for Confederate Flag in White South - The New York Times

"The backwards rural South remains.

"At Kimball’s General Store, a popular meeting place here, a man who declined to give his name blamed blacks for the new assault on the flag, and muttered a racial slur. Near Mr. Heath’s office at the county courthouse, a pickup parked beside a weatherworn house sported a pair of Confederate flags, and a window sticker that read “American Nazi Party.”

Just across the county line, the Georgia Peach Oyster Bar has operated as a scandalous open secret. Its website features two Confederate battle flags, the description, “The Original Klan, Klam & Oyster Bar,” and a stunningly virulent collection of racist signs. Patrons are confronted with a selection of crude cartoons and graffiti, and a menu that declares, on the appetizer page, “We cater to hangins’.”

Mr. Heath acknowledged the existence of such sentiments here. But he also noted that this overwhelmingly white place, so committed to the flag, also elected a black man, H. Allen Poole, as the chairman of its Board of Commissioners in 2004, and has re-elected him twice. Last year, voters elected the state’s first Asian-American Superior Court judge, Meng Lim, a Cambodian refugee who grew up in the Haralson County city of Bremen.

“It’s complicated,” Mr. Heath said.

For Mr. Heath, the flag helped get him elected in 2008, when he bounced around the county’s rural back roads in his pickup, hunting for votes. The battle flag was affixed to the front bumper. A 12-gauge shotgun was in the gun rack, and an old bloodhound was in the back.

It was all part of a package that validated Mr. Heath’s regular-guy credentials and bolstered his argument that the magistrate court would be better run by a self-proclaimed good old boy with a high school diploma than by the lawyer who was the incumbent at the time.

Mr. Heath saw it as an appeal to a common culture, not a racial gesture, a way to show voters that he was one of them: conservative, Republican (the county went 81 percent for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election) and, as he said, “salt of the earth.”

‘Complicated’ Support for Confederate Flag in White South - The New York Times

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