By now you’ve probably heard about the embarrassing controversy swirling around the “prize-winning” Las Cruces Tea Party parade float that prominently featured the Confederate flag.
Predictably, this symbol of division, racism and white supremacy evoked considerable backlash. One can only express wonderment at the knuckleheads on the awards committee who presumably didn’t see this coming.
In making an official apology, Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima expressed outrage. He also promised that the 4th of July Planning Committee would thoroughly review the rules and procedures for next year’s parade.
El Paso Electric, the corporate sponsor of the parade, also disowned the float fiasco, and said that it would withdraw support of the event in the future unless rules are changed.
The theme of this year’s parade was the Statehood Centennial — “100 Years of New Mexico History.”
In a statement responding to the criticism, the Las Cruces Tea Party offered a historical justification, claiming that the Confederate flag was included because it is one of several flags that have flown over New Mexico during its history as a state and territory (italics added). A Tea Party spokesperson further elaborated with this non sequitur: “Because it’s history, and you can’t change history. I know they’re trying to, but you can’t.”
While it’s true that Confederate colors would have accompanied the rebel army from Texas when it attempted to wrest the Rio Grande valley of the New Mexico Territory from the Union in 1862, this incursion was a short-lived one of less than three months.
Indeed, that Confederate blip on New Mexico’s historical radar simply underscores what was glaringly obvious by their absence from the float — the flags of Spain and Mexico. General Sibley’s 1862 raid rather pales in historical comparison to the two nations that dominated New Mexico’s pre-statehood narrative for 200+ and 25 years respectively.
And curiously, with the exception of a New Mexico state flag, none of the other banners pictured on the float — notably the Revolutionary War era “Pine Tree” and “Gadsen” flags or this piece of current day Tea Party merchandising — have anything to do with pre- or post-statehood New Mexico history.
So yeah, the historical justification is as pathetic as it is laughable.
But for all of this simple-minded nonsense, that’s not the real kicker. Here’s where it gets darker. The Tea Party spokesperson, Jo Wall, added this:
“I don’t see why anyone should have an objection to it. The Confederate flag was never meant to be racial.”
After picking your jaw up off the floor, read Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic who puts that old lie to rest one more time in his post, Honoring the Fourth With the Confederate Flag.
And not to be outdone, here’s Sarah Kennedy’s take. Yes, she’s angry and definitely has an objection:
UPDATE: Almost forgot. Walt Rubel, managing editor of the Las Cruces Sun-News weighed in with this.
CORRECTION: The original post stated that none of the banners pictured on the float had anything to do with pre- or post-statehood New Mexico history. However, according to one news account a New Mexico state flag from the 1915-20 period was on the float. The post has been corrected to reflect this.