Three seniors in Bloomington, MN, missed walking in their graduation last night as punishment for displaying the Confederate flag on their trucks. For displaying the flag, the three were suspended from all school activities including their own graduation ceremony.
"The Confederate flag is a symbol of, in some cases, hatred, bigotry and it has the potential to create a very disruptive environment," said a spokesperson for the Bloomington School District, on the decision to punish the three. Officials say the Student Code of Conduct prohibits behavior that may provoke or offend other students.
The Confederate flag controversy isn't new, but this part caught my attention — to see how the students defend the actions and the flag,
One of the students punished said, "I'm just a country type of person, country music, big trucks and everything, that's basically all it means to me . . . it has nothing to do with hate and racism, that's just what these parents are teaching their children today."
And then this from another, "We're all big fans of the Dukes of Hazard. It's just us showing we have our own style and we aren't going to conform to whatever anyone else thinks. . . I did not mean to offend anybody. I guess it's how you interpret it. And if I did offend somebody I'm sorry, it wasn't a shot at anyone." To them, the flag is a sign of rebellion, not racism. The student continues, "The confederate army was in rebellion to the US Army who were about money and power. We never took it as racial or anything like that."
And then there's this sticky part of the story: since the school principal is African-American, the students said that's why he was so offended and too harsh with their punishment. Ah.
Is it possible the Confederate flag now means country music, trucks, and non-conformity? Has a Dukes of Hazard modern sensibility erased the history of the symbol?