How offensive is this bumper sticker?

On the way in to work this morning, I saw a bumper sticker. On the left hand side was a confederate flag. On the top of the right it said, “If I’d known this”. On the bottom of the left hand side it said, “I would have picked my own cotton!”

Now, I’m not exactly clear on what “this” is. And there is some debate on how offensive Confederate insignia are. A blurb on local radio yesterday talked about how there is currently an effort in Florida to get a Confederate flag as part of the license tag program; it is allegedly to honor those who fought in that war, and there are 100 different tags to choose from. This brings up it’s own interesting problems of free speech versus symbols which many find offensive.

What’s your take?

Prettry darned offensive. Usually, the words “was going to happen” appear after the word “this”. I haven’t head that saying in a long while.

I saw one of these about a year ago outside of Philly. It made me cry. I had to pull over - and I’m not a weepy kind of chick, but it really hurt my feelings.

IMO, it’s pretty damn ugly and I would feel comfortable with any prejudices I might have towards its owner.


I feel like a big dummy, but how are you guys interpreting the bumper sticker exactly?

Is the bumper-sticker/car owner saying: “if I had known that the Confederacy was going to happen, I wouldn’t have owned slaves”?

If so, then, yes, the “oh darn, I knew I shouldn’t have subjegated other human beings to soul-destroying cruelty” comes off way too blase to be funny…

What is the point to the bumper sticker? What about the Confederacy is the owner commenting on - white trash?

Sorry for my ignorance - please help me fight it.

I must be clueless… but I can’t for the life of me even understand the bumper sticker, let alone be offended by it.

Can someone fight my ignorance here? It seems to be saying something about the confederate flag and slavery, but fuck if I can figure out what…

I saw this exact bumper sticker on a pick up truck about 8 or so years ago. The truck was for sale. An African American gentelman stopped to look at the truck and walked all around looking it over. And then he saw the bumper sticker. He face changed, but only slightly. I wondered what he was thinking.

I felt sorry for him, and exceptionally angry towards the truck owner, whoever he was.

This is clearly an offensive bumper sticker.

If I’d known this (blacks would be freed and left to ruin everything)
I’d have picked my own cotton (and left them in Africa where they belong)

Not agreeing with that sentiment, of course, but coupled with the stars and bars that’s how I would have read it.

I also thought it seemed to be possibly regretting the whole Slavery/Confederacy/Civil War thing, but I don’t really get it. I don’t get the whole “Confederate Flag is Evil Incarnate” knee-jerk, either.

It’s a commentary on how they see African Americans in our society—

It’s pretty obviously saying that “If I’d known that the Civil War was going to happen, would’ve picked my own cotton” It’s bemoaning that the war happened, and that the South lost, I suspect, more han anything else.

Of course, it makes no sense, for a lot of reasons, and I think the makers of the sticker realize that, and intend it to be part of its appeal – “If we’d a-known there’d be this war that we’d lose, we would have freed the slaves and picked the cotton ourselves to avoid it.” If that’s right, then it’s about local pride and not really about slavery.

It wouldn’t have played out that way, of course (as, I think, the sticker’s auithor knows) – the South still wouldn’t have liked the North telling them what to do. And any one supplier couldn’t have given up slavery and remained competitive with his slave-holding neighbors, so slavery would still have continued ( at least until greater mechanization eventually brought it down).
But the whole sentiment is inextricably bound up with Soutrhern History, Slavery, and the Civil War. Even taking the writer’s intentions into account (if my interpretation is correct), it’s still hard not to see it as offensive.

belladonna (hello, fellow Buckeye!) has summed up my understanding of what the bumper sticker means. I vote for extremely offensive.

Ahhh… thanks. If that’s the correct way of reading it it’s definitely offensive.

That’s the only interpretation that seemed to make sense to me before Bella’s post above…

“If I’d known this (symbol of my cultural roots would forever be associated with slavery), I’d have picked my own cotton.”


The whole “I would have picked my own cotton!” part makes a joke out of slavery. As if the sordid affair wasn’t wrong because it amounted to a crime against humanity, but because it resulted in the formation of that ole rascally cross and bars nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. The bumper sticker reads like some good-natured ribbing of a treasured symbol, made at the expense of something that shouldn’t really be belittled. Southern style humor is full of self-deprecation like this.

But then why are the sentences intersected by a confederate flag? If the speaker is sad that the Confederacy lost, shouldn’t it be some symbol of reconstruction or Union victory?

**belladonna’s ** interpretation makes no sense at all, either. If the first sentence refers to “blacks would be freed and left to ruin everything” then why is the object a confederate flag? How on earth could that flag symbolize blacks being free? That can’t possibly be it.

The message appears to be a regret about the existence of the Confederacy or the existence of the confederate flag as a sumbol of the South. Is the bumper sticker saying it regrets the existence of the South? If so, why does it express a desire to pick its own cotton?

I’m with FinnAgain; it doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s about as offensive as saying “Ticket glass dog the if grab if ampersand.”

Quick! Name a “symbol of Reconstruction”!
You can’t.

And a US Flag would be even more confusing.

For bumper-sticker-length items intended to evoke the Civil War, it’s hard to beat the Confederate Flag.

By the way, if you think “carpetbagger” is a good symbol of Reconstruction, and you think you can draw one that would be recognizable in a pinch on a bumper stiocker, more power to you. But most people wouldn’t recognize it for what it was supposed to be.
And if they got that it was a carpertbag, they still wouldn’t get it. It would, I suggest, register like this:

“If I knew this was Gonna Happen”

(Mary Poppins)

“I’d have picked my own cotton.”

I think what’s confusing is that the Confederate flag doesn’t relate in any direct way to the words. You’re tempted to read “this” (in “If I’d known this was going to happen”) as relating to the flag, when it doesn’t. They’re two parallel messages: one, disgust at the current state of affairs, and two, nostalgia for the Old South. Durned white supremacists – never war any good at semiotics.

I first saw this little sentiment on a t-shirt in North Carolina. I and all those around me had** Belladonnas ** interpretation. The wearer of the shirt was rather proud of it and also took it as a slur on blacks. He specifically wore it at my university campus to “piss off them liberals.” He stopped wearing it really quickly after some black frat boys said something to him as he was going to class. He wouldn’t tell us what they said to him. God I’d have loved to hear it. From a distance.