Raising children or the flag?

Whether the Confederate flag symbolizes racial oppression or Southern pride may hinge on the difference between desegregation and integration.

A group of parents has asked the Orange County Board of Education to ban images of the Confederate flag, calling it a racially inflammatory symbol that disrupts learning. So far, the board has remained as silent as the statue of Sam on the UNC campus.

At the school board’s Feb. 27 meeting, parents plan to ask that the matter be slated for the board’s agenda in the near future so that the issue can be discussed and the board can explain its stance. Community members have tried to make themselves heard at prior board meetings but have been unsuccessful.

On one occasion when several people planned to speak during the public comment period, the board moved up the meeting time by a half hour with insufficient notice. When parents arrived to speak, they were too late. At the Feb. 13 meeting, community members wishing to speak on the topic were locked out. The sign-up sheet was set up outside the building; those wanting to speak on innocuous topics such as the spelling bee were escorted in through another door.

For years, the Orange County school board had a dress code that banned “racially inflammatory” attire. But last March, the board deleted that phrase with no explanation.

The N.C. Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans charged the N.C. chapter of the NAACP of waging a “campaign of willful ignorance and race baiting” for siding with parents who want the Confederate flag kept out off school grounds. The Hate-Free Schools Coalition took a more measured tone, acknowledging that not everyone who has a Confederate flag is an extremist or racist, while pointing out that the flag triggers anxiety in some students of color who wonder whether those flag-displaying classmates — or teachers — “would prefer for [minority students] not to be there.”

That alone should be enough for the school board to ban the flag. They don’t call the elementary, middle and high school days “the formative years” for nothing. Children are solidifying their sense of self and place in the world. Do they see themselves as capable and valued in the school setting that comprises the majority of their waking hours? Or do they try to form their identity under the weight of school authorities who sanction the belief that people of color should be nothing more than chattel?

Did North Carolina schools truly integrate black culture and white culture? Or did schools simply desegregate, allowing black students into a white world, expecting them to navigate white privilege that does not respect black society?

At the college level, the flag would be a free speech issue. But not with children younger than that. It is the job of all elected officials, all adults, to let children come into their own in a world that treats every one of them with equal value.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 27, at A.L. Stanback Middle School, 3700 N.C. 86 South, just north of New Hope Church Road.
— Nancy Oates

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  1. Bonnie Hauser

     /  February 27, 2017

    Thanks so much for this post. This is our chance to decide whether we are going to let white privilege dismiss the experience of African American children.

    Are we willing to have this conversation about race?

  2. Don Evans

     /  February 27, 2017

    Couldn’t help but do a double-take when I read that the N.C. Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans charged the N.C. chapter of the NAACP with waging a “campaign of willful ignorance and race baiting.”
    If anyone is engaging in that behavior, it is the NCDSCV. Ignoring the evil that the flag represents is willful ignorance, and displaying the flag in public is race baiting. Plain and simple.

  3. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 1, 2017

    Here’s what happened last night. OCS wont put the topic on their agenda for discussion. However they did decide to form and appoint their own committee – mostly white – to look at racial equity. No parents, no teachers. no students.


  4. plurimus

     /  March 1, 2017

    Nancy, Taking a contrarian viewpoint;

    Aren’t we in the dangerous territory of banning/denying history? Isn’t it important to the dialog to acknowledge the symbols and discuss their their meanings to the parties in question? Where would you draw the line? Would you ban the swastika, Stalin’s portrait, the Khmer Rouge’s scarves, a pre 1994 South African flag, or Mao Zedong’s little red book?

    I am not saying I support the idea or using symbols for divisive purposes, however the danger I see is teaching a generation that conveniently denying history and residual feelings that surround events and symbols that represent it, is something the schools support is a bad idea. In my experience that tactic tends to disable rather than enable a necessary dialog.

    Political correctness once again run amok.

    In my mind, denying the bad in history is as antithetical to our values as the proposed bans on immigration.

  5. Chuck Willingham

     /  March 1, 2017

    Thank you for the contrarian viewpoint.

    Nancy’s point regarding the continuing legacy of harm caused to black students from school desegregation instead of integration speaks to our request to ban the confederate flag.

    This is about safety and disruptive free learning for all students in our K-12 public schools. Displaying a symbol on clothing, backpacks… that has it’s origins in white superiority and diminishes an entire group of students has no place on K-12 property.

    Let’s continue the history discussion in our public spaces and on our college campuses. We have much to unpack.

  6. plurimus

     /  March 1, 2017

    Mr Willingham. Thank you for your reply. I agree we all still have much to unpack.

    I still believe that sweeping icons under the rug in an attempt to suppress feelings does anything but prolong the issues. IMO better to recognize the fact that only critically thinking and reasoning people will be equiped to resolve long festering issues such as this, Better to start early..

    We should all have learned the sad lesson again recently that pretending something does not exist and assuming that it is relegated to the wrong side of history is not a strategy for success.

    I look forward to further dialog and to learning things I do not yet know.

    “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing,and being nothing.”

  7. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 2, 2017

    Plurimus – this is school – girls cant wear halters or tank tops. Offensive symbols should be banned from the dress code, screen savers and other places.

    Certainly the flag can and should be taught in the classroom – with historic and cultural accuracy.

  8. plurimus

     /  March 2, 2017

    I agree limits must be set, but again; its the message that says you can simply ban or suppress something that you don’t like or offends you that is counter productive.

    Doing what you suggest displays institutional hypocrisy and drives ideas and symbols that are easily countered underground, increasing division and isolation of thought in our society.

    Children by their nature push boundaries, it’s a process of self discovery. Participating in decision-making helps them build the skills necessary to navigate the demands of life. Providing opportunities for them to make good and bad choices and building the reasoning to tell the difference helps them practice for making bigger choices. Understanding that they are not the center of the universe and their actions can hurt or offend others is a key learning. Giving kids the opportunity to exercise the control that they need at an earlier and earlier age is what school is supposed to do.

    Most children do not know what that flag means. Its a pretty emblem or decoration to them. Learning and appreciating how it affects others and why is an important lesson that goes far beyond a dry recounting of history and brings that lesson home.

    I posit suppressing ideas without allowing people to reason their way out simply magnifies them and risks burdening society with more personality afflictions such as Milo Yiannopoulos or worse, Stephen Miller.

    I would be interested in hearing what teachers say on this issue and what actions should be taken in the long term best interests of the children rather than making this about what our generations thinks the solution is or isn’t.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905

  9. Nancy

     /  March 2, 2017

    Plurimus, The New Yorker ran a cartoon some years back of a toddler crawling toward a campfire, a chainsaw and an axe, while the father explained to his friend, “We believe in letting him learn from his mistakes.”

    Of course the Confederate flag, the Little Red Book, the Khmer Rouge should be taught in school. But the Confederate flag still today is used by people who would like independent-minded black people to go away. Because of that, we need to protect children from that daily threat. If you are a parent, you know the lengths you go to to raise your child in a world he/she believes is safe, so the child learns to trust others and feel part of the larger society. (Otherwise, you might grow up to be Donald Trump.) I’d like the schools to help with that message, too, by banning displays of the rebel flag.

  10. plurimus

     /  March 2, 2017

    “But the Confederate flag still today is used by people who would like independent-minded black people to go away.”

    Yes, and so is Gerrymandering and unfounded fears of voter fraud. The point is that things do not go away because you wish it to be so. Far better to confront the symbol before it becomes a chainsaw, axe or campfire of legislation.

    Safe; right you are, but safety in a delusional or insulated bubble is a false sense. I argue that DT and his ability to live free from truth is exactly what is produced by this suppression.

    Perhaps we are just from different places on this subject. I was raised to be inquisitive and to confront bullies. I was also taught to question authority, speak truth to power and to recognize things for what they are. The very idea of safe spaces where ideas are suppressed is antithetical to my core and leads to a dehumanizing dystopia where people can be comfortably convinced that lies are truth.

    DT illustrates this dystopia neatly by manipulating the quality of information. Having a firm basis of what is right and wrong is the only thing that can combat this strategy.

  11. Bonnie Hauser

     /  March 2, 2017

    Plurimus – i’m guessing you are white – because you speak from a place of white privilege – where we navigate freely in our world. Not so for our AA families who work hard to figure us out before they move. Watch Hidden Figures.

    That said – looks like Barry Saunders agrees with you. kinda. http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/barry-saunders/article135784818.html#emlnl=morning_newsletter

  12. plurimus

     /  March 2, 2017

    Oh please. Branding me as “white” for my assertions is just a red herring and designed to shut down dialog. White people are subject to the same brainwashing as anyone else, how else would you explain the misinformation that led to “pizzagate” in February of this year? Was Mr. Welch navigating freely? No one is immune from the conspiracy theories in a world where truth is fungable.

    Hidden Figures is a story that I was unaware of, yes I am a better person knowing about it. I was also alive at that time and lets just say the representation of society it portrays is blurred and sanitized to say the least. I think the only mention of the real turmoil of 1961 is stock footage of a bomb being thrown at the freedom riders.

    However upon reflection that’s not the point of the movie at all, is it?.

    The main takeaway I received from the movie was that there is more than one way to skin apartheid and that knowledge, not ignorance or race is what enables or denies “free navigation”.

  13. plurimus

     /  March 2, 2017

    BTW Barry Sanders is exactly right, except that
    “Otis Blue” is a far better album than any “Greatest Hits” compilation could be specifically because of its arrangement.