London

Caribbean association 'angry' Port Dover, Ont., store is selling ball caps showing Confederate flag

The Oxford Caribbean Canadian Association says it's "angry" and "saddened" that merchandise featuring the Confederate flag is being sold at a Route 6 Steel Horse Boutique in Port Dover, Ont.

'We are clear and united in our opposition' of symbol being used without context, OCCA says

Route 6 Steel Horse Boutique in Port Dover, Ont., sells merchandise including this ball cap featuring the Confederate flag. The Oxford Caribbean Canadian Association says the symbol 'represents the fight to maintain slavery as a social and economic structure.' (James Chaarani/CBC)

The Oxford Caribbean Canadian Association (OCCA) says it's "angry" that ball caps featuring the Confederate flag are on sale at a Route 6 Steel Horse Boutique in Port Dover, Ont. 

According to Route 6's Facebook page, the shop, which offers rock'n'roll and motorcycle clothing and accessories, is a "unique, classy store with a little edge."

But the OCCA says the Confederate symbol represents "horrors" that are still felt today.

Flown during the U.S. Civil War, the flag has since become associated with white supremacist groups.

"We are angry and saddened as the Confederate flag — a symbol of the American Civil War — represents the fight to maintain slavery as a social and economic structure," the OCCA said in an emailed statement. 

"The transatlantic slave trade and the systems it brought about were horrors whose effects reverberate in our community to this day."

Route 6 Steel Horse Boutique bills itself as a 'unique, classy store with a little edge.' (James Chaarani/CBC)

Also in southwestern Ontario, earlier this year, some members of the Black community in London raised concerns that a Confederate flag —with its blue cross and white stars over a red background — was flying prominently on a rural property south of Highway 402. The flag was taken down not long after the homeowner was questioned about it by CBC News. 

"The true meaning of that flag, no matter how some people view it as a symbol of regional pride or a rebellion against certain governance, is contingent on the oppression of other people to make it so," OCCA said.

"We are clear and united in our opposition of its commercialization and of its display without full and factual historical context."

CBC News was unable to reach the boutique's owner for comment despite multiple attempts, but will update the story if a statement is provided. 

'A market for it'

Phil Triadafilopoulos, a University of Toronto associate professor of political science, said the fact merchandise that features the Confederate symbol is being sold signals "there's a market for it," but it doesn't necessarily represent the belief of the shop selling it.

"If it's being sold, someone's buying it. I don't think it's just a statement by the store owner. Highly unlikely," he said.

"It also tells us about how trends, and fashions and ideas aren't limited geographically or regionally," he said. "They never were. I mean, I don't think there was ever a time where a certain set of ideas was bound by borders or particular territory, but I think it's more ubiquitous now because of modern communications, technologies."

That said, Triadafilopoulos doesn't believe owning such merchandise is always telling of a person's politics, particularly young people, who may be unaware of its historical significance but might see it as a sign of transgression. 

"I think in some instances, yeah, it's meant to signal that the person has particular views on race and race relations and the rest of it," Triadafilopoulos said. "I don't know whether that's always the case.

"I think ... there's some people in their teens or twenties who really are kind of clueless about what this symbol represents."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Chaarani is a reporter for CBC London. You can reach him at james.chaarani@cbc.ca.

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