Why It’s OK to Sell Merchandise With the Confederate Battle Flag
(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
It was recently reported that a shop in Wildwood, N.J., was still selling merchandise bearing the Confederate battle flag.
“It’s only a matter of time before Wildwood boardwalk shops follow the national retailers and stop selling Confederate flag shirts,” columnist Dan McQuade wrote. “And hey, Wildwood’s always working on its image. The boardwalk will get a little classier if stores stop selling Confederate flag T-shirts.”
No offense Dan, but I hope you’re wrong. I hope that store owner in Wildwood continues to sell items with the Confederate battle flag. As long as it’s profitable, good for him.
A month or so ago a guy walked by me wearing a T-shirt with a swastika on it. I am Jewish. The swastika emblem is extremely offensive to me, considering all that it represents: concentration camps, murder, war, genocide. The Confederate battle flag is also extremely offensive to me, just like it is to many others, because of what it represents too: slavery, racism, oppression, ignorance.
Of course, the guy wearing the swastika shirt is a knucklehead, just like anyone wearing or displaying a flag that calls up images of hate and violence. But you know what? He can argue, just like the many who support the Confederate battle flag, that the swastika emblem has its own historical significance. In fact, it is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Now, I’m pretty sure the guy I saw wearing the swastika T-shirt would be challenged to spell the word “Buddhism,” but hey, he has every right to wear it. And whoever sold it to him as every right to sell it.
Walmart, Target, eBay, Apple and other retailers have all stopped selling merchandise with the Confederate battle flag on it. But there are plenty of places where you can buy Confederate items, just like the shop in Wildwood. Not only that, but you can still buy Nazi-era clothing on countless sites online. You can buy Satanic necklaces and skull and crossbones baseball caps. You can buy a Christian cross, which is offensive to some Muslims. You can buy a Star of David which is offensive to some Palestinians.
There are profitable and legal businesses that will sell you guns, help you to cheat on your spouse, provide an abortion or feed your gambling habit. You can buy clothing that promotes the Black Panthers, flags that demonstrate your support of gay pride and an iPhone that was made by a 13 year old in China. This is all offensive to some part of the population. And with all due respect to others who walk the planet, no more or less offensive than a Confederate battle flag or a Swastika.
Does that mean that the state should sanction items that represent hatred? No. As much as I’d roll my eyes at the knucklehead wearing a swastika hoodie, I’d be more incensed if a swastika flag was flying over a city hall or a state capital.
The government does enough things to enable hatred and violence. Supporting causes that invokes emotions of hatred and racism is not a great idea. Taking down the Confederate battle flag over South Carolina’s state capital, for example, should have happened a long time ago regardless of the historical implications or its representation of all those who died during the Civil War.
Which brings me back to the shop in Wildwood, N.J. It’s OK for them to sell the Confederate battle flag. It’s OK for them to sell whatever they want as long as it’s legal and there’s a market for it. As a business owner, I support any business owner trying to make a living for his or her family, regardless of whether the products or services are offensive to me personally. No one’s forcing me to buy and I’m just going to have to live with the fact that there are people who don’t find the same things offensive as I do.