Confederate billboard stirs up Kemp

Kaufman County was all over the Dallas news cycle last week regarding a controversial billboard erected on the outskirts of Kemp.

The billboard, located just off of Highway 175, depicts a cartoon character with his pants down peeing on an image of the Dallas skyline next to a Confederate flag with the message “I Support Confederate Heritage.” The billboard is likely a response to a Dallas City Council vote that took place last month calling for the removal of a Confederate monument in Pioneer Park located in downtown Dallas.

Kemp city officials are not sure who is responsible for the billboard, but their response to it is clear: they want it to come down as soon as possible.

“It’s a vulgar sign and it faces a daycare,” Kemp Mayor Laura Peace said in a statement last week. “We can debate the politics involved, but that’s not an appropriate place for that type of sign. It’s not good for the community.”

While the billboard is highly visible from Highway 175, which is likely its intended audience, it is situated right across the street from a Chevron gas station and is adjacent to the New Horizons Private School Daycare and the East Gate Church of Christ. Many Kemp locals and Dallas residents have raised their voices in unison denouncing the billboard, and according to Mayor Peace the Kemp City Hall was flooded with messages from unhappy Kemp residents asking for its immediate removal.

“The general consensus is very clear: the community does not support that sign,” Mayor Peace said. “They don’t want to have the impression that is our value here.”

However, many Kaufman Herald readers think the sign should be protected as free speech regardless of the crassness of its delivery.

“I agree with the sign,” Janet Watkins commented on the Kaufman Herald Facebook page. “Burying history is not going to change it! [It will] just cause resentment and worst of all, folks will start to forget the struggles we’ve been through. Not a good idea!”

Watkins’ statement speaks for the vast majority of the commenters, who posted well over 150 comments, most of which voiced support of the billboard and its message. Others agreed that the sign should be protected as free speech but didn’t approve of its sentiment.

“The flag itself might not be racist, but once something is associated with the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and people like the Charleston shooter, maybe we might need to re-evaluate,” Taylor Mayfield said.

“It makes me so sad that something so hateful is accepted,” Amanda Perez added. “Unfortunately it is free speech, but people should really think about how this affects others.”

Although some may view the Confederate flag as a symbol of southern heritage with no racial connotation, it has been affiliated with racist groups, including those named by Mayfield, throughout history. And its presence on The Kaufman Herald’s Facebook page ignited some racially charged statements and gave further merit to its status as a racially dividing image in a region that is just over 50 years removed from the Jim Crow segregation laws that diminished the rights of black Americans.

“The childish ghetto folks continue to cry and have all the southern monuments taken away,” Rob Kosar said. “How about leave the billboard alone. It isn’t hurting anyone.”

When Corey Nobles, a black man, decried the billboard as racist on the Kaufman Herald’s Facebook page, he was roundly criticized.

“You don’t like it just because you are BLACK,” Jason Cockrell responded.

As the billboard raises a free speech issue, Kemp city officials are hesitant to rip it down without going through the proper channels. They have contacted their city attorney to inquire whether anything can be done to remove it legally. The city contacted the Dallas Mavericks raising concerns over similarities between the Mavericks’ logo and the lettering used in the billboard, but so far there has been no response from the Dallas-based basketball team.

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