For some, it’s about racism, and for others it’s about Southern heritage. Mega Confederate flags have been going up on private property near highways in North Carolina. The group that puts them up says it’s in response to Confederate monuments that have come down.
In Alexander County, WFAE watched as six men maneuvered a fifty-foot flag pole into a concrete base in Larry Mitchell’s back yard along Highway 90. It will be home to a 10 feet by 15 feet Confederate flag.
It’s the first mega Confederate flag in Alexander County, but it’s the 11th that the Sons of Confederate Veterans have put up in six counties northwest of Charlotte in the past year, said Smitty Smith, a member of the group’s local chapter.
“Hope to see many more,” Smith said. “But I got the first. We’ll put a flag on every county, I-40, across the state. You got to get 77 too. Got one on 95. If anybody got the place for them, we’ll slap it up.”
Smith won’t say how much the flags cost and he is insistent it isn’t about offending people.
“The people that are saying to take these down, they are not from the South,” Smith said. “The South has been infiltrated. And these liberals come down here. You look in the newspapers, everything, the government. Look at the governors, look at the people elected, they are not from the South. They don’t have Southern values. We do.
We asked Smith to define Southern values.
“We want to be left alone,” he said. “Leave us alone; leave us alone. We be fine. But no, the North come down here.”
Another mega flag has gone up in neighboring Catawba County where Jerry McCombs has lived most his life. He has a different view.
"I know it's there," McCombs said. "I know what it represents, who it represents. So I'm careful when I go by that area."
McCombs is president of the Catawba County NAACP. He says he lives near that other flag, a much larger one that’s 20 by 30 feet along Highway 16.
“People are upset and they really think it's embarrassing to Catawba County to see those flags go up,” he said. “They really think it’s embarrassing. And this is not just minorities. This is white people also that call and tell me our county is not like this.”
McCombs said he’s happy to see Confederate monuments come down across the country because to him the Confederate flag represents hatred. And since the Sons of Confederate Veterans say the large flag displays are in response to monuments coming down, McCombs said he’s pushing to remove as many monuments as possible.
"I hope they continue to raise some money because my understanding the flags and all that stuff ain't cheap," he said.
Large Confederate flags would deter Evita Robinson from traveling. She’s the founder of NOMADNESS Travel Tribe, a website and community of travelers that encompasses mostly women of color. Her website has been referred to as the modern day green book, a guide during the Jim Crow era that advised black travelers about where it was safe to go. Robinson has heard about the flags going up. And to her, a millennial, it’s a reminder of America’s racist history.
“It is scary because (racism) is not this elusive idea and concept and something that we ‘went through,’ ” Robinson said. “We are very much going through it now. And we have got to face this thing head on and it has been more in our face than it has been.”
Back in Alexander County, Mitchell, whose property will house this new mega flag in his back yard, is giddy. The new flag dwarfs the smaller one on his property and the one on his left shoulder.
Pointing to his shoulder, he describes the Confederate flag tattoo there as in “the shape of Alexander County” with a scorpion for his birth sign.
Standing back, watching as the latest mega flag is hoisted on his property, Mitchell is in awe.
“Don’t that look good,” he said, before being interrupted by the sound of a car horn nearby.
“Told you,” he said. “It’s been up two minutes and people done blowing at it.”
Smith, the Sons of Confederate Veterans member, said he expects to put up more mega flags soon. He’s getting slammed with requests.