Commentary: McCrory is talk but no action on Confederate flag license plates

Commentary: McCrory is talk but no action on Confederate flag license plates
July 16
00:00 2015

In above photo: Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Confederate flag license plates. (Illustration by N.C. Policy Watch)

By Chris Fitzsimon, Guest Columnist

A few days after the massacre of nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory announced he wanted North Carolina to stop issuing specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

A spokesman said McCrory believed that in the wake of the shootings, “the time was right to change the policy.”

McCrory garnered praise and headlines across the state and nation for his statement and he deserved them, though it was the least the state could do and he was following the lead of other governors in the South like Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.

But it has now been 17 days [on July 10] since McCrory spoke up and the state has continued selling the license plates.

The week of July 10 brought the news that sales of the plates had increased since McCrory’s remarks and that DMV sold out of them more than a week earlier.

A McCrory Administration spokesman says more plates are being made and should be available in 30 days and that DMV is currently taking pre-orders for them.

So much for the governor standing up and ending a symbol of racism and hate manufactured by the state he leads.

McCrory says the General Assembly must act to end the sale of the plates.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger says McCrory can do it with an executive order.

Meanwhile, as the two leaders conveniently call on the other to do something, nothing is done and more confederate plates are being sold and more are being made.

McCrory may honestly believe he doesn’t have the authority to stop issuing the plates, but if that’s true, he doesn’t seem too bothered by the inaction of Berger and other legislative leaders.

McCrory had held more than a dozen media events since he first spoke out about the Confederate plates.

He has cut ribbons at businesses and called on lawmakers to approve his proposals for bonds for transportation and infrastructure.

He has not mentioned the Confederate flag plates.

Maybe he is waiting for the General Assembly to act on its own, but that’s hardly what a leader would do.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed legislation Thursday [July 9] to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state Capitol grounds, and it was removed Friday morning.

Haley demanded the legislation after the Charleston shootings and worked hard to make sure it passed, even reportedly making an emotional appeal to state House Republicans at a closed caucus meeting.

Haley knew that removing the flag was the right thing to do, and she made it happen.

McCrory says that ending the Confederate license plates is the right thing to do but isn’t sure he can make it happen and doesn’t seem inclined to use the weight of his office to force the General Assembly to act.

North Carolina Congresswoman Alma Adams issued a statement Thursday praising the South Carolina legislature and calling on McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly to discontinue the license plates bearing the Confederate flag. [That statement can be seen on the Opinion page of The Chronicle in this issue.]

And she’s right.

Somebody needs to stop issuing the plates and stop making them and cancel the orders.

A Confederate flag should not fly on the capitol grounds of South Carolina and should not be on official license plates made and sold by the state of North Carolina.

McCrory is in charge, and it is up to him.

The millions of people he represents who see that flag as a symbol of hate deserve a governor who not only says the right thing about it, but follows up and actually does the right thing.

No one believes that removing the flag will solve the problem of racism that still plagues our state and our society.

But symbols are important; the confederate flag needs to go.

There’s no place for it on public buildings or public grounds or public license plates.

Let’s see if McCrory is up to it or if he is just full of talk.

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of NC Policy Watch, writes the daily Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts “News and Views,” a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. Contact him at

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