Phoenix business owner takes down Confederate flag

by Sonu Munshi
Feb. 14, 2012
The Republic |

A north Phoenix business owner has removed a Confederate flag after The Arizona Republic stopped by to inquire about the controversial flag.

The flag of the Southern Confederacy has been divisive since the Civil War ended. For some, it is a symbol of slavery and racism. For others, it honors the Southern heritage and states’ rights.

The flag at a tiny strip mall called the Deer Valley Air Park, near Seventh Avenue and Deer Valley Road, directly across from Deer Valley Airport, caught the attention of passers-by.

Janie Maders, owner of AJ’s Cycles and Service, said she had posted the flag on a pole just outside her store a few weeks ago along with two American flags and an Arizona one, because she got it for free and it looked good.

"It’s nice and bright, it’s pretty," Maders said on Friday.

She said she would remove the Confederate flag if it offended anyone. It was gone this week.

Maders on Tuesday said she didn’t want to jeopardize business at her 3-year-old bike shop. She said she researched the flag online and saw that "it actually is an American flag and is pretty dear to some people."

Still, she said she didn’t like that racist groups have also flaunted the Confederate flag.

Maders previously said she has similarly hung other free flags such as one of Puerto Rico. But she said she wouldn’t put up a Mexican flag. "I wouldn’t want illegals of any nationality coming to my store," she said.

Rev. Oscar Tillman, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Maricopa County, said anyone flying the Confederate flag shows he or she "could care less about a certain group of people coming to their place."

He added, "I’m just surprised someone still flies that flag in 2012."

Civil War historians say the flag represents different things to different people, depending on their background and ancestry.

"It’s the most explosive and controversial symbol in all of American cultural history," said David Blight, an American Civil War professor at Yale University.

Experts say people have the right to fly the flag, but they must also accept the attention it draws.

"Some see it as an expression of rebellion with a small ‘R,’ while for others it is a symbol of confederate heritage and those people are reluctant to admit the role of slavery," Brooks Simpson, a history professor at Arizona State University, said. Still others see it as a symbol of racism because it was later used by hate groups, including the Klu Klux Klan in the 50s and 60s, Simpson added.

For years, the South Carolina Capitol drew attention to the flag perched atop its dome. In 2000, after much criticism from the NAACP and others, the flag was moved to a nearby memorial for Confederate soldiers.

The flag remains a matter of disagreement between those who believe it represents slavery and those who say it honors their ancestors who fought in the Civil War.

Catherine Wright, curator at The Museum of the Confederacy in Virginia, said there is still debate over whether the Civil War was fought to protect slavery or to protect state’s rights.

"So even describing the flag’s association with slavery is problematic to many," Wright said.

Curt Tipton, adjutant of the Arizona division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, is among them.

"It’s the flag that our family members fought and died for, there’s nothing racist about it," Tipton said.

He added he would only have a problem if a racist group would use the flag.

Several people The Republic spoke with near the business had mixed views.

Tim Kent, who works nearby, said he didn’t see why anyone had any objections.

"It’s an American flag, it’s not foreign; it’s not Iranian," he said.

Phoenix resident Johnny Simpson said he found it "shocking and deeply offensive."

He said he understood the owner’s legal right to fly the flag, but he said that free speech comes at a price.

"I’ll never patronize that business," Simpson said.

Copyright © 2012

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