Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of the Chronicle.
Last year, our school raised the Black Lives Matter flag. This year, it’s being moved.
Though the flag will still be on our campus, it will no longer fly alongside the flags of Vermont and the United States. Instead, the WCUUSD School Board decided in November, 2018 that it “would be acceptable” for a second flagpole to be installed, specifically for student flags. This was in part due to a desire to find a middle ground, between those opposed to the flag and those in favor.
When Principal Steven Dellinger-Pate made the proposal, he argued that, “it would address concerns raised by those who believe the U.S. and Vermont flags are entitled to a pole of their own.” These included students at one school board meeting, who commented “that they believe the ‘Black Lives Matter’ flag has caused more division than it has caused unity.”
This hand wringing about divisiveness betrays a misunderstanding of the very nature of the society in which we live.
Those forwarding this view don’t consider that division is inherent in a society that has divided its citizenry along racial lines since the beginning. Those in positions of power are, in some ways, comfortable with this division. They’re not necessarily consciously in favor of injustice, but their words mean less than their actions.
Make no mistake, they probably really do feel that the second flagpole is acceptable, taking the path of least resistance, even if it’s done subconsciously. That doesn’t make their decision right. Their decision is cowardly.
It’s not about whether the Black Lives Matter flag is flown at the school in general. The clear aim of moving a flag from our school flagpole is to send a message that our administration is not associating themselves with that flag.
That symbol of racial justice will no longer be identified with our school, but separated from it. Rather than carrying the full endorsement of our administration, the pole will represent the products of student groups, and that alone.
On top of this, the policy is hypocritical. The flag policy states that student flags must “represent ideas that are linked to and support the current U-32 Mission, Goals and Student Learning Outcomes.”
If a flag is consistent with the U-32 mission, then why not identify it with U-32? And if they only represent student groups, why do our school values influence whether they will or will not be flown? Continually attempting to play both sides leads to these dilemmas.
In a country where police killings are the sixth leading cause of death among young men, every institution should identify itself with justice.
Despite this, the school board found unanimity in one thing: their tacit refusal to take a stand for justice, rather than for oppression.