- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—CARLSBAD — The Confederate flag is a hot topic in the nation, but New Mexico organizations remain cool when it comes to the issue.

Lena Brown, with the Albuquerque Chapter of the NAACP, said that statewide, residents’ reactions to the debate about displaying the Confederate flag have varied.

“To some people it doesn’t mean a thing, it doesn’t bother them one way or another. To others it’s a concern,” Brown said.

Ryan Hicks, who organized a gathering of Confederate flag enthusiasts Friday to cruise Carlsbad’s streets proudly displaying it and the U.S. flag, said the flag was about “heritage” not “hate.”

Hicks said it was his way of showing the Carlsbad community that the emblem is more than just a scapegoat for racial tensions.

Hicks titled the event “Heritage not Hate” in hopes that people would see the controversial flag as an important historical figure rather than just a symbol of hate.

“The Confederate flag is a symbol of many things and not all of them are negative,” Brown said.

The New Mexico NAACP has said they are urging a calm and neutral approach to the debate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala. and founded during the civil rights movement, has been actively tracking all “rebel flag” rallies across the nation. Their map shows that Carlsbad is the only New Mexico town to have played host to a Confederate flag gathering.

Carlsbad is no stranger to the issue of race and civil rights. Segregation in restaurants and schools was still present until about the 1950s, according to Current-Argus achieves.

In oral history interviews with the University of New Mexico, several African American residents recall traveling to El Paso to find a hotel that received blacks, or being barred from the local cafe.

But Brown said that she views such exhibitions as an opportunity to start a dialogue, not incite trouble.

“If this was a peaceful rally, you (residents) should let it stay as such,” Brown said.

Jessica Onsurez can be reached at 575-628-5530.

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(c)2015 the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.)

Visit the Carlsbad Current-Argus (Carlsbad, N.M.) at www.currentargus.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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