I love Americarna.

There's something about the big American cars rolling into town, the American flags flying, and the people dressed up in plenty of red, white and blue that just makes me smile.
I walk down the street happily soaking it in and admiring all the gleaming chrome.

But. I always find myself stopped short at some point.

If I were in a movie, the happy, upbeat background music would screech to a jarring halt and the camera would zoom in on what spoilt my mood.
A Confederate flag.

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There's no getting around it - I love Americarna, and I love seeing the USA flag flying high around the town, but I cannot tolerate seeing the Confederate flag.

 Editor Ilona Hanne says the Confederate flag has no place in her town
Editor Ilona Hanne says the Confederate flag has no place in her town

I understand many people don't share my view, one New Plymouth councillor, Murray Chong, hit the headlines last year for saying he was happy to fly a Confederate flag from his car window during Americarna.

According to him, while he understands the flag is associated with slavery, he doesn't fly it for that reason.

He just likes it because it was on the roof of a car on a TV show called Dukes of Hazzard.

Well, I also grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard. I clearly remember being glued to the television at 5.15 on a Saturday evening as Bo and Luke Duke, along with Uncle Jesse and cousin Daisy foiled the evil plans of Boss Hogg.
I also remember desperately wanting a pair of Daisy Dukes, the tight (and short) denim shorts made famous by Daisy on the show.

But just as my eight-year-old self knew it wouldn't be appropriate to wear those shorts to church on a Sunday, or in fact anywhere my father saw me going, so my 40-something self knows the Confederate flag has no place in my town.

When I talk about the Confederate Flag, I mean any of the three used as the flag of the Confederate States of America in the 1860s as well as the square or rectangular flag featuring the Southern Cross used in the battle flag of General Robert E. Lee. I qualify this because "fans" of the flag have, in the past, argued they aren't displaying an exact confederate flag, just part of it.

No, I don't understand how this makes it better either.

Be it a battle flag, the national flag of the confederacy or a variation of it, the flag doesn't represent anything good.

I understand it has a place in history, but I don't see why it should ever be seen out of a museum in today's world.

The flag, in one or many of its variations has been used to protest desegregation in 1950s America. The Ku Klux Klan would display the Confederate battle flag as members abused, terrorised and killed black people. That's the same Confederate battle flag which flew above the heads of soldiers who went to battle to defend their States' right to keep slaves.

The flag represents a belief that people of colour are lesser somehow. It represents a time when people thought it was ok to go to another country, capture the people who lived there, rip them away from their families and their homes and sell them as slaves.

So why on earth do people in Taranaki choose to wear it on a baseball cap or fly it out of their car window?

As I walk around looking at the Americarna cars, I can't help wondering what message the flag is sending out.

Is it saying "we love American cars" or is it saying "hate is welcome here"?

Personally, I would like to see the use of the flag banned from the event.

It has, in the USA, been banned from schools in some districts, and just last week the Detroit City Council banned hot rod and custom car show from running a particular car stunt because some of the participating vehicles had Confederate related imagery on them.

Photo / File
Photo / File

The global online shopping giant Amazon has banned the sale of items bearing the Confederate flag in its marketplace and the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has long disallowed the use of the Confederate flag in anything NASCAR related.

So why does a car festival in Taranaki still welcome it?

Why do we welcome something that makes other people feel unwelcome?

Let's put that flag where it belongs, in history books and museums, and let's celebrate all that is great about American cars without celebrating hate and prejudice.