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Confederate flag is gone. Is New Orleans' iconic fleur de lis next?
The Confederate flag is down. Will Louisiana's fleur-de-lis be the next to go?
That's the question posed by some in New Orleans, who point to the emblem's previous connections to slavery as the reason why it must go.
The questions arose during a recent meeting of the New Orleans City Council where the removal of Confederate monuments was discussed. Rudy Mills, head of the grassroots group Remove Racist Images, said he'd like all vestiges of the slavery and Confederacy removed from the city. Mills said that includes the iconic fleur-de-lis.
"Check the history. It's also a very racist symbol," he told the council.
While many see the fleur-de-lis as a symbol of all things New Orleans and Louisiana, it does have a dark history.
"Code noir, those words are French and mean black code," slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck told USA Today, referring to a set of regulations adopted in Louisiana in 1724 as a means to govern the state's slave population. Among the provisions of the code was branding runaway slaves with the fleur-de-lis as punishment.
Other parts of the brutal code included whippings, cropping slave's ears and, for repeat offenders, slicing the person's hamstrings.
Seck said the fleur de lis carries powerful symbolism, but said it also has become a sign of unity for many in New Orleans, especially during the rebuilding following hurricane Katrina.
Tulane history professor Terence Fitzmorris agreed.
"The fleur-de-lis was the symbol of a monarchy. The United States of America was a slave-holding republic, not just the south or the Confederacy. Where do you stop? Do you get rid of all symbols?" he told WMAZ.
For its part, the New Orleans City Council remained mum on any removal of the fleur-de-lis. Instead, it voted – unanimously – to begin the process of removing four Confederate monuments in the city.
As Councilman Councilman Jared Brossett put it: "New Orleans is a city with a bright future, but we have a dark past and so does our country. I'm not under the delusion that the removal of a statue or the renaming of a circle will magically" result in racial harmony," he said, but added the monuments should represent what we want to be, not "what we were at our worst."