YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Most Kitty Hawk sailors are taking the new emphasis on proper civilian attire in stride, but half a world away, one of the restrictions is causing an uproar.
A ban on any clothing articles emblazoned with the Confederate flag — or any other words or symbols deemed offensive or inappropriate — has some Southerners on a rampage. And they’re expressing their anger via e-mail.
The brouhaha began with a single line in a May 6 article about the instructions given to sailors regarding proper dress while on liberty in Japan. Through his command master chief, Capt. Thomas Parker, the new Kitty Hawk commander, said offensive images included the Confederate flag, emblematic of heritage to some — but decades of racism to others.
“As a southerner, a Navy veteran, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I am offended by the bigoted nonsense of this supposed ‘officer and gentleman,’” wrote E.D. Craddock Jr. of Conway, Ark. “I am sure that on Capt. Parker’s ship it is entirely OK to wear a ‘Black Power,’ NAACP, NOW, etc. T-shirt. God forbid that a sailor on Parker’s ship might wear a T-shirt with a cross or an image of Jesus Christ on it.”
Dozens of e-mails expressed similar sentiments.
“We ask our service people to liberate an oppressed people in Iraq. But, if some of them had ancestors who fought for the South in The War of Northern Aggression, or if they just want to tastefully wear a Confederate flag on their clothing, we are concerned that the Japanese might be offended?” wrote Clark Williams of Watkinsville, Ga.
Many sailors say the issue is, well, a non-issue.
“I don’t know too many guys here who are going risk their career by wearing something that a lot of people think is a symbol of racism,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Davis of the Kitty Hawk.
“It’s the same thing with wearing a shirt with a marijuana leaf on it or a curse word or something.”
The issue still resonates in many parts of the States.
Just this week, Georgia’s governor signed a bill that adopted an entirely new state flag devoid of the Confederate emblem, replacing an unpopular design adopted in 2001.
The 2001 flag was a blue banner that contained a small Confederate emblem along the lower edge. It succeeded Georgia’s 1956 flag, which was dominated by a large Confederate emblem added by the legislature at the height of Southern resistance to integration.
The brand new flag hoisted May 8 contains Georgia’s coat of arms and the words “In God We Trust” on a blue field in the top left corner, with three red-and-white stripes to the right. Georgia voters will pick between the new flag and the 2001 flag in a referendum next March. Few give the old flag any chance to win.
A similar controversy in South Carolina led to an economic boycott directed by the NAACP.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.