In Part One of this series, focused on the proposed Confederate flag ban and the perspective of those who support it, one incident came up repeatedly. Teacher advisor to Seeking Social Justice Meg Allison explains:
“A student, Noah Witke Mele, took a picture on the day the Black Lives Matter flag was raised of a Confederate flag hanging out the back window of a school bus.”
Many believed this act was done in an effort to intimidate black people and other minorities at our school in the aftermath of raising the BLM flag.
The student who flew the flag on that day, however, does not agree. Dustin Clark was a sophomore at U-32 the year the BLM flag was raised but no longer goes to the school.
“The reason I brought the Confederate flag and Blue Lives Matter flags on that day is because of symbolism,” Dustin explains. “If the school is allowed to fly a political flag like the BLM flag then I should be allowed to fly the Confederate flag.”
For people like Dustin, the raising of the BLM flag was the open alignment of U-32 with the political values of Black Lives Matter, a controversial organization that he and others disagree with.
“If they want to ban the Confederate flag in schools, shouldn’t all flags be? Including Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, etc.” Dustin says. “They’re all interpreted differently from person to person.”
At the center of this discussion is the question: What does the Confederate flag really stand for?
Dustin’s family connections to a Southern identity and political beliefs shape his perception of the flag. “The modern representation of the Confederate flag is just a way of saying hey, I’m from the south and I’m proud,” he says. “I have connections. I have ancestors who fought both for the North and the South during the Civil War… I don’t see the flag as a symbol of hate.”
Devante Lee, a student who appeared in Part One of this segment, doesn’t see the flag in the same way as Dustin.
“When I see it,” Devante says, “it makes me think of what they were fighting for–some parts of it, which is the slavery aspect and the three-fifths of a person… more like a threatening thing to me.”
Another student, and junior at U-32, Jack Fortin, expresses yet another interpretation of the flag: “I think it represents rebellion.”
Dustin perceives a changing landscape for free speech at U-32. “Myself and others have brought Confederate flags in before and nothing was ever said.”
With the increasing discussions about racial politics at U-32, sentiments on both sides have become more overt. Meg Allison says that after the BLM flag was raised last year, there were more “folks reporting they were seeing Confederate flags… There was talk we were seeing more of this.”
Despite all this controversy, and the strong feelings it evokes, Dustin, and many others like him do not see the personal beliefs of other students as justification enough for the banning of the flag.
“Over time we adapt and change the meaning of a lot… same for the flag.” Much “[depends] on how they view the flag regarding their beliefs,” Dustin acknowledges. But “I don’t see a problem with the flag in schools.”