Though Michigan doesn't fly the Confederate flag at its statehouse, the countrywide debate regarding its use has reached this northern state.
The racially motivated shooting massacre of nine churchgoers at a historic black church in South Carolina was executed by gunman, who posted images of himself with the Confederate flag resting on his shoulder on Facebook, has increased calls to remove what is seen as a symbol of hatred from government buildings and state-sponsored grounds.
One needn't look any further than the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, which held last week's Pure Michigan 400 race won by Matt Kenseth. NASCAR had asked racegoers not to display the flags at races, but was largely ignored.
The Detroit Free Press reported that many Confederate flags
were on sale by vendors near the speedway grounds, on items such as T-shirts, beach blankets, and skull caps. The vendors follow the NASCAR circuit around the country, hawking merchandise at every stop.
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"We are politely asking people to reconsider the use of the Confederate flag, to think about what it may mean to others," MIS track president Roger Curtis told the paper. "We have a program available to them, that if they want to turn in their Confederate flag for an American flag, we are more than happy to do that."
One NASCAR fan, 60-year-old Carl Landenberger bought and displayed a flag out of spite. To him, that flag represents tradition, not bigotry.
"I just bought it because they [NASCAR] said I couldn't," Landenberger told the Free Press, admitting that he didn't know much about the flag's history. "I don't think of it as racist."
Elsewhere around the Wolverine State, controversy has also come from the private sector, where citizens posting the flag on their property have stoked the ire of neighbors. According to the New York Daily News
, a Livonia, Michigan, businessman angered area residents by hanging Confederate flags and nooses on his suburban Detroit property.
"I am not a racist," Robert Tomanovich, 55, owner of Robert's Discount Tree Service, told the Daily News. "I know black guys, I have black friends. We're all laughing at this stupidity. Do you know how many white guys were hung back in the day? This isn't racist. But all of a sudden it's out of control."
Mary Greer, who lives next door to Tomanovich's business address, questioned his reasons.
"150 years after Abraham Lincoln's death, we are still going through this kind of atrocities," she told TV-station WXYZ-Detroit
. "A hangman's noose and a Confederate flag?"
A month before the church shootings, neighbors in Flint, Michigan, were upset at the sight of a Confederate and Nazi flags hanging outside a home. The homeowner declined to comment to MLive.com
"That's just bad behavior," Frances Gilcreast, president of the NAACP Flint branch, told MLive.com. "It lets you know that they're not interested in anything other than confusion and conflict."
Saginaw, Michigan, resident Angela Tilot, flies the Stars and Bars from her pickup truck, and has Confederate Flag nail polished on her fingers, according to another MLive.com report
"Heritage and history — 640,000 people died in the (Civil) War, and they can't even have a remembrance?" Tilot told MLive.com.
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