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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Controversy in the Core

Hillbilly Heaven will be opening up a new location next month on the corner of King and Walnut Streets. The establishment features an image of the Confederate flag as part of its signage.

The Hamiltonian has received emails raising  objections to the use of this flag due to an association made between the flag and its history as it pertains to slavery and oppression.

Some have emailed, setting a very different context, arguing that the American Civil war was not only about slavery, and thus too much is being ascribed . Still, some may argue that the its use at Hillbilly Heaven is harmless, more in line with a marketing presence, than anything else.   


Given the emerging controversy, we asked Clr. Jason Farr what he thought about an email that was sent by Mahesh Butani to members of the press and city councillors, in which Mr. Butani expressed grave concern over the signage. 

Clr. Farr replied  "no comment".

In tandem, we asked Cameron Bailey,  the proprietor of Hillybilly Heaven the following question:


The location in downtown Hamilton bears the Confederate flag symbol as part of its signage. The Hamiltonian has received a complaint around the use of that symbol, with respect to what it has symbolized through history. Given the concern expressed and the sensitivities that may exist in the multi-cultural community that your new location is located in, would you consider voluntarily removing the Confederate flag symbol from your signage. If not, can you explain your position? 

Mr. Bailey of Hillbilly Heaven replied as follows: 

The “flag” is the confederate battle flag is one of many banners used by the armies of the southern states to identify themselves in battle.

Immediately post civil war, it was one many symbols of the still simmering desire for southern independence. Consider it similar to the flag used by the separatists in current day Quebec or the flag used by the first nations people across Canada. The Canadian flag was opposed by loyalists to the Monarchy, but no one seems to object to it today.

Unfortunately, over time, the confederate flag has been chosen by different groups as one of the symbols to unite them or to profit from:

- true southern based Americans, proud of their heritage – not racists, just proud
- some hate groups who misconstrue the history of the flag in order to deem it as pro-slavery
- Hollywood and other media who have made it simply a southern icon. See: Dukes of Hazzard

When the vast majority of people see the flag, the immediate identification is it as “southern”.

I agree, there is a small minority of Canadians that look at it as a symbol of slavery and racism.

My question to those Canadians is simple: Canada was untouched by slavery. To them and foreign born minorities, the flag should be meaningless.

However, there is a segment of Canadians, usually middle class Anglo-Saxons, that find fault with it simply because that it is trendy to shout down anything that could possible offend anyone.

Before calling me a racist, as so many have done, it would be interesting to present evidence of that. None exists. But it’s cool to say it nonetheless.

We choose to take the current day approach to this. The confederate flag is a southern icon. Period. It’s been a key feature of TV shows, movies and other media for decades. Choosing to take offense to a watered-down, media blessed, symbol of the civil war south is really not a good use of people’s energy. There are plenty of serious issues for people to be concerned about – issues that need real, “get off your couch” support.

In short, the flag stays.


What do you think? Are you okay with the flag being used and do you accept Mr Bailey's explanation. Or are you of the view that its use is inappropriate?

Please note: The Hamiltonian will NOT publish comments that are offensive. We invite a civil discussion of this issue, from all sides of it,  and expect that comments will be respectful. If your comment does not appear, consider how it was worded, adjust it and resubmit it. 

40 comments:

  1. It is a strange choice and marketing strategy - and will likely prove a very poor one.

    This is not an inviting symbol to most of us. I would remove it if I were the owner.

    The restaurant will likely not last with this iconic symbol front and centre. Misunderstood or not - most people will find it tasteless.

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  2. Farr will be the voice box for a Global Spectrum and the casino thing, but he won't speak up on this? Isn't this important to him? It's in the International Village!

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  3. I appreciate Mr. Cameron weighing in, however I am quite taken back by his position and complete disregard for the people that are affected by the symbol. He even states that "I agree, there is a small minority of Canadians that look at it as a symbol of slavery and racism". I beg to differ about there being a small majority, regardless of the number, it is offensive to people. I also take offence to the unsupported claims and comments made by Mr. Cameron in what I consider to be a poor excuse for his ignorance. Perhaps Mr. Cameron is not aware that there are family living in Canada that were directly affected by this symbol, perhaps even living right here in Hamilton. We wern't all born here.

    I am thowing Mr. Cameron's right back at him. If he is asking Canadians to look the other way because "Canada was untouched by slavery. To them and foreign born minorities, the flag should be meaningless" then why the heck would he showcase it in Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA?

    Sometimes it just comes down to common sense. When you know that something could be offesnsive to some, go to plan B. We need to be more respectful and mindful for the sake of the few or the many that could be hurt by makerting tactics.

    My advise to Mr. Cameron is to round up your Hillbilly outfit and head on out of town. I wouldn't step foot in a door that under values the horrific suffering of human beings.

    I am also very disappointed with Councillor Farr and our City for condoning this.

    MCL



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  4. Despite different views about people being offended, it is difficult to argue that the Confederate Flag has multiple meanings. In the end, we must ask ourselves the purpose of it in this context. What is it? To identify an establishment that sells food distinct to that of the southern US.

    Pulled pork tastes good. Try it sometime.

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  5. I'll be eating there when I''m downtown. Why? Not because of the confederate flag, but because the food is GOOD. I enjoy good food. I also eat falafel and halal foods from places like Montfort or Tarboosh.

    I have an Indian coworker that wears swastika earrings. We all know what the swastika is synonymous with right? Do I complain? NO. That symbol Is strongly tied with their Hindu beliefs.
    The confederate flag is a symbol of the south and there's no doubt in my
    Mind that the proprietor of Hillbilly Heaven is using it as such. People need to relax plain and simple.

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    1. It's all about having good morals my friend. If anyone were to wear a swastika symbol in my work place, I would be the first to stand up and say something. When your too relaxed you become lazy, self centered and ignorant to what's really happening happening in the world around you.

      The President of the USA is banning the confederate flag because of its relation to slavery, racisim etc...

      Enjoy the food while you can, because I don't believe the majority of Hamiltonians will support his disrespectful ways towards ethnic backgrounds.

      Delete
  6. I buy Bailey's position, but I don't think it is a wise one- business-wise. What if I decided to open a place that specializes in German food and had a swastika on my sign. I also think Mr. Farr should have the guts to say something if this is in his ward.

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  7. I saw it the other day and thought nothing of it unrilmi read about it here. So I guess it's nothing to get excited about in my eyes.

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  8. From Cameron Bailey, owner, Hillbilly Heaven: We do the best Southern BBQ in the city. There is no arguing that the Confederate flag is a southern icon. There is no racism or hatred in what we do and our food is "international" so the placement of the business is in the right setting. We have two locations and have brought 8 new full-time jobs to the city.

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  9. I don't have much to say about this issue as I do not know enough about it and I do not want to assume that I can feel what some people feel when they see that flag. I do think The Hamiltonian is courageous to take on this topic and I am impressed that it has been presented very fairly. Congratulations to you for that. And to Mr. Bailey, I hope you can find a resolution cause we need business investment in the core. So, hopefully, we can all take a deep breath and learn to work this out.

    Severn

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  10. Cameron Bailey (again) Thanks to everyone who emailed me directly -- this is definitely not a hate issue, far from it. I knew when I put up the "stars & bars" it would get noticed. My work here is done. People....there are soooo many serious issues to deal with in the City. This is not one of them.

    Come in, try the food - you will LOVE it

    CB

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    1. Oh, you are far from done. You have upset a lot of people Cameron and unfortunately for you, probally inched your way closer to placing in your window the permanent sign that I will be waiting for - Business CLOSED!

      Your kind of advertising is rude, offensive (you said it your self), and racist.

      I would also encourage you to educate yourself on the history of slavery. Canada is very much involved. You may have seen a commercial or two about how blacks from the south escaped slavery via underground railway, which brought them into Niagara Falls, Ontario, CANADA!

      Grow up.

      Delete
  11. Cameron Bailey (again -- last time) I asked Mr.Mahesh Butani, the original complaintant, (through the Hamiltonian) for a copy of the email he sent to the council etc. HE REFUSED. Dude, if you can't stand up and make your complaint public, you shouldn't complain at all

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  12. I think the best thing to do is for someone to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Let them get involved. Filing a complaint is free.

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  13. Is Councilor Farr going to show some leadership here? No comment does not cut it!

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  14. Many other BBQ establishments in the area (Memphis Style BBQ Co., Rolly Rockets, Southern Smoke) offer great BBQ without the side of Confederate Flag. Vote with your dollars. Still makes me very sad to see this in our city.

    I patronized this restaurant up on the mountain until the signs went up - and they lost my business.

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  15. Well here's a shock, something new in the downtown area that has the potential to be a successful business and people are complaining about it. Hamilton should have a slogan that says "Welcome to Hamilton where the people don't like new, successful or change". Why don't you all stop your crying and stop feeding off negative things and focus on the positive.

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    1. Because we live in a multi-cultural city where hate symbols aren't acceptable? Why would a business owner put a flag that is recognized as a hate symbol on their restaurant is the better question.

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    2. You look at the symbol as hatred where I look at it as it represents soldiers, black or white, northern or southern, who fought on battlefields defending Constitutional Rights. So once again, try focusing on positive.

      Delete
    3. If you think Hillbilly Heaven is the only new business downtown that has the potential to be successful, you need to get out more. A number of restaurants have opened up in recent weeks to great acclaim and tons of support.

      Mr. Bailey isn't being criticized because people don't like success and change, he is being criticized because he displays racist imagery and offensive signage. That is his right of course, just as it is everyone else's right to boycott his racist business if they so choose. That's how business works, downtown and everywhere else. It has nothing to do with being negative.

      Delete
  16. As Mr. Bailey stated, this flag was a battle flag to identify the southern forces.The southern states had numerous flags. The 13 stars stand for the 13 southern states that wanted to seceed from the Union. The Civil War was fought mainly on secession and not slavery. If you look back in history, the northern states had slaves as well, including Abraham Lincoln. He used slavery as propaganda against the southern states with his Emmancipation Proclamation. I am not defending slavery at all, just stating fact. Unfortunately, this flag has been used by Hollywood and other groups to promote a way of life that existed over a 150 years ago.

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  17. Clr. Farr needs to take a stand and "no comment" is just doesn't cut it. Hamilton as a city is the second most multicultural city in Ontario (after Toronto) and community standards would make clear that symbols perceived as racist, with or without intent, need to be removed from a public establishment.

    The owner of Hillbilly has stated that he understands that the Confederate Flag has racist undertones, however he wants to make this a public issue by pushing to keep this controversial symbol on his establishment. I advice the owner to consider a more positive marketing strategy. If your intent is to only inform customers that your restaurant offers Southern Food, you can do so in other ways. All you need is some creativity to come up with a better marketing strategy.

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    1. I think his marketing strategy is brillant. I think he does these things to create controversy which will get people talking about his establisment. You are all giving him free advertising. The people that have a problem with his signage may never go there but this topic has created new customers and it has promoted his new location. This is doing exactly what he wanted it to do. Just my opinion.

      Delete
  18. gordon harropMarch 03, 2013

    The beauty of living in this wonderful country called Canada & our beautiful city called Hamilton is every citizen from coast to coast enjoys free speech & freedom of expression. That being said, if the signage offends you don't patronize the establishment clear & simple! For those that don't have a problem with the signage, ENJOY as the food is awesome!

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    1. I won't be attending this place, and it does not matter what the food is like. The sign is offensive. The owner may be able to play cheeky coy with his statements, but bring him before a human rights commission and see if that game playing plays well.

      Delete
  19. @ C. Farr

    This is what we pay you to do Jason. We pay you to get involved in tough matters that affect our community. You are supposed to show leadership, not hide behind "no comment". How ridiculous! What do you think Jason? Should the sign stay, should it go?

    No comment? Give me a break! Do your job Jason.

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  20. If you go to the Hillybilly Heaven website, you will find that Mr. Bailey has a very cool graphic for his place, that features a pig/cow and hillbilly, all in cartoon. I would recommend he replace it with this clever graphic and all is solved. He will score points with the community too.

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    Replies
    1. I second that. It would be a perfect solution.

      Severn

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  21. Hiding something out of fear suppresses debate and truth. If this flag causes discussion about the American Civil War or slavery why is that a bad thing? No civilised person agrees with slavery, but many people do not understand the very complicated history of slavery in America and the fight for freedom that was opposed to mostly by powerful wealthy plantation owners, not the population in general.
    I am sure that people walking into this restaurant do not automatically think “I agree/disagree with slavery” they walk in thinking about food, or probably "oh, 'Dukes of Hazzard', cool!"
    If you agree with hiding all symbols that connect to hate, the less discussion and education, leading to more ignorance of history.
    On another note, does not the word Hillbilly also offend the politically correct?

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  22. The Hamiltonian AdminMarch 03, 2013

    Please note: comments that veer off topic or veer into advertising plugs will not be published. Lets continue with civil discussion.

    Thank you

    The Hamiltonian Admin

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  23. Not illegal but just in very poor taste.

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    1. Agreed, it is in very poor taste. Why couldn't they have used their cartoon hillbilly logo on their sign. That would have been fun and friendly. I was also distrubed to find a pic of one of the products sold or advertised in this establishment bearing the complete f word. Help us all if they call the restaurant family friendly. Pathetic really.

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  24. I see it's been a busy weekend here. Here are my observations :

    1. Bailey admits that some see the flag as racist, and yet he is okay with using it. Bad move.
    2. Mahesh sends a scattergun email to all council and tons of media, without copying Bailey- Bad move.
    3. Someone on this thread suggested that Bailey use the cartoon logo- good move- solves all for now
    4. Ward councilor Farr is hiding under a blanket with "no comment"- bad move.

    P.S.Mr. Bailey. Mahesh's name is spelled Mahesh NOT Manish. And he happens to have some good ideas and thoughts about Hamilton. Have the decency to spell his name right on your site.
    Sorce

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    1. Funny how you spelled his name right on The Hamiltonian and wrong on your site.
      Sorce

      Delete
  25. Incidentally, "hillbilly" as a word appears to have been coined in 1898, almost 40 years after the end of the Civil War.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillbilly#History

    The term is applied in reference to the inhabitants of mountain ranges in both the south and the midwest, with both the Ozarks and Appalachian ranges predominantly northern.

    This kind of ham-fisted attempt to engage history quickly betrays itself for what it really is.

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  26. Latest CBC Coverage:
    http://www.cbc.ca/player/News/Canada/Toronto/ID/2340076176/
    http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2013/03/04/hamilton-hillbilly-heaven.html

    A visual Database of Symbols:
    http://archive.adl.org/hate_symbols/default_graphics.asp

    Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society - CAERS:
    http://www.stopracism.ca/content/3-warning-signs-racist-symbols-and-dates-0

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  27. Term Limits NowMarch 04, 2013

    Step up and get involved Jason Farr. If you believe the sign is not racist, say so. If you believe it is, say so. Explain why. Bring your ward to understand your viewpoints. In short, do your job.

    Term Limits Now

    P.S. If you ask me, the sign should be removed. It's offensive.

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  28. Cameron Bailey (again) Had a meeting with Jason Farr - he was on this issue first thing in the morning. Also met with Mr. Butani later in the day - I think he is satisfied that there is nothing racially motivated here. Should any groups wish to have to answer to them in person, I will gladly oblige.

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  29. SerendipityMarch 04, 2013

    Mr. Bailey's first sentence in his response reads, "The “flag” is the confederate battle flag is one of many banners used by the armies of the southern states to identify themselves in battle." The mere thought of armies and battles is enough to spoil one's appetite; unfortunately, Mr. Bailey might have wished to make a connection between the flag and the food he's serving. Too late now.

    Jason Farr's "no comment" is unimaginative.

    I miss the Chicken Roost...which would never have thrived if the logo was a pair of fighting cocks and the owner went public in support of same. I saw Hillbilly Heaven's website and the farmer/pig/cow logo - it's neither Disney nor adorable but it beats the alternative.



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  30. Ok so an eatery called Hillbilly Heaven showing the Confederate flag. Has anyone ever watched the t.v. show The Dukes of Hazards about a bunch of Hillbillies getting in trouble with the law and driving around in a car with the Confederate Flag on it. They both synonymous with each other. How naive some people can be! If it offends you then get a life.

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