For more than four decades now, action-comedy series The Dukes of Hazzard has advertised the Confederate flag to retinas of TV-lovers across the world. Now, in the wake of international Black Lives Matter protests against racial injustice, the stars of the CBS show are speaking out in defence of the series’ usage of the controversial imagery.
In all but one episode of its seven-season run, between 1979 and 1985, leading duo Luke Duke (portrayed Tom Wopat) and Bo Duke (John Schneider) drove a 1969 Dodge Charger emblazoned with a painting of the Confederate flag on its roof.
In 1860, shortly before the American Civil War, 11 states seceded from the U.S. and formed the Confederate States of America in an attempt to protect the institution of slavery. The flag most associated with the group was the so-called “battle flag,” according to global anti-hate organization, ADL.org.
As a result, the emblem is widely considered racist and serves as a symbol that supports white supremacy of slavery.
Adding to that, the infamous orange sports car made famous by The Dukes of Hazzard is known best as the “General Lee,” named after Robert E. Lee, the 19th century U.S. confederate general. The controversial figure served as the commander of the racist Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.
Despite these factors and years worth of backlash against the much-beloved show, Wopat, 68, told the Hollywood Reporter (THR) that “the car is innocent” during an interview on Tuesday.
Although he defended General Lee car, the American actor expressed positivity “to be living in a time when we can address some of the injustices of the past.”
Schneider, 60, on the other hand, said that he had “never had an African-American come up to (him) and have any problem with,” the General Lee vehicle.
“The whole politically correct generation has gotten way out of hand,” he added.
“The situation in the country has obviously changed in the last 40 years,” Wopat said of the country’s progression in equality.
Along with the death of other Black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, the killing of George Floyd in May, has helped renew calls to fight systemic racism and put an end to police brutality across the world.
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Floyd, a Black man, died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during an arrest in Minneapolis. He was 46.
The Dukes of Hazzard creator Gy Waldron told THR that he “had relatives fight on both sides of the Civil War” and that his family “honoured both the American and Confederate flags.”
The 87-year-old, who grew up in Kentucky — which was part of the Union in the 19th century, despite being a slave state — claimed that, at the time, “No one even connected the Confederate flag with slavery.”
“It was simply a part of our Southern culture,” he added.
Despite his defense of the Confederate battle flag, Waldron said that he “”wholeheartedly supports the Black Lives Matter movement and its quest to address racism around the world.”
Back in 2015, The Dukes of Hazzard was pulled from the air indefinitely as a result of its usage of the confederate flag. Though it is still available to stream via Amazon Prime Video, Warner Bros. — the series’ producers — announced that they would no longer create or merchandise which included the flag, according to USA Today.
The revelation followed the horrific and racially-motivated Charleston church mass-shooting in 2015, where a man murdered nine Black congregants.
On June 28, Mississippi lawmakers voted to surrender the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design, a generation after the South lost the Civil War.
Mississippi had faced mounting pressure to change its flag since May, in response to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests
Mississippi has a 38 per cent Black population — and was the last state which bore a flag that incorporated the emblem that’s widely seen as racist.
Last month, Gwar, the American heavy metal band (commonly known as GWAR), backed a fan-launched campaign to replace the controversial General Lee monument in Richmond, Va., with a statue of Oderus Urungus — a deceased member of the band.
That’s right. Rather than honouring a “failed” 19th-century U.S. confederate general, one “GWAR scumdog” launched a change.org petition on June 12 in an attempt to get the “racist” landmark replaced with a tribute to the former Gwar frontman (born David Brockie).
— With files from the Associated Press