Tom Petty: Confederate flag looks to a black person like a Swastika looks to a Jew – The Times of Israel
Florida-born rocker Tom Petty has expressed regret for using a Confederate flag onstage during a tour 30 years ago and to promote an album he issued at the time. He compared the flag to the Nazi swastika, and said using it “was a downright stupid thing to do.”
Petty spoke out during a Rolling Stone interview, weeks after the shooting deaths of nine people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, spurred a debate about the flying of the Confederate flag. The flag was flown by armies of the pro-slavery, secessionist South during the American Civil War.
Last Friday, South Carolina removed the flag from a flagpole near its Statehouse. The man charged in the Charleston shooting is shown in pictures with the Confederate flag and police say he was motivated by hate.
Petty spoke to Rolling Stone soon after the flag was taken down in South Carolina. He said the Confederate flag “was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up in Gainesville, Florida” but that he was “pretty ignorant of what it actually meant.”
When he released his 1985 album Southern Accents, which he said began as a concept record about the South, “the Confederate flag became part of the marketing for the tour. I wish I had given it more thought. It was a downright stupid thing to do. It happened because I had one song on the album called ‘Rebels.’ It’s spoken from the point of view of the character, who talks about the traditions that have been handed down from family to family for so long that he almost feels guilty about the war. He still blames the North for the discomfort of his life, so my thought was the best way to illustrate this character was to use the Confederate flag.”
Petty said he regretted using the flag “pretty quickly” and made it clear at the time that he felt about it. “If I had just been a little more observant about things going on around me, it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Added Petty: “People just need to think about how it looks to a black person. It’s just awful. It’s like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn’t be on flagpoles.”