By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS
One year ago, a swastika note was found on campus. This note shook the University of Mary Washington campus and the surrounding Fredericksburg community. As a community, we are known for our inclusivity and accepting atmosphere amongst the students, faculty and staff. Hearing about the note was appalling and frightening. Now we are at another reckoning.
For the past few months there has occasionally been a Confederate flag hanging inside the window of a student’s room in Mason, a residence hall. This flag has again instilled fear in the UMW community, and it has forced us to question what the flag symbolizes and why a student would willingly fly it.
Some argue that Confederate flags are a symbol of hatred and oppression. To others the flag symbolizes southern pride.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Matthew Guterl, a professor of African and American studies at Brown University, said that the reason that Americans fly the Confederate flag is because “they imagine that in that context the flag is a representation of Southern history, Southern heritage, and Southern culture. They tie it to questions of state’s rights, and the absence of federal oversight.”
Guterl said that the problem with this notion is that the flag is not a neutral symbol.
“What is far more problematic is that there is no way to separate the fact that it is on all of those flag poles and on those license plates, that it’s on t-shirts and coffee cups and other paraphernalia, precisely because it was resurrected in the 1940s and 1950s as part of a massive resistance campaign against the civil rights movement,” said Guterl. “It wouldn’t exist in our national popular culture without this moment, when African Americans fought for their equality, and the battle flag was recovered and redeployed as a symbol of opposition to it.”
Our “Values that Unite Us,” as listed on UMW’s website, include integrity, dignity and respect, diversity, intellectual inquiry, responsibility and leadership. The flag is a reminder that the South was once a rebellious and racist sect of the country. The ideals that the flag supports do not align with our values as an institution.
We at the Blue & Gray do not condone racism and racist symbols. We while we do welcome freedom of speech, displaying a reminder of slavery on campus should not be allowed. We denounce the display of images and stand with the students who feel directly threatened by the Confederate flag.