Alex Yarde wonders if we really call ourselves free when we’re willing to entertain the idea of removing a Pride Flag but not the one that, for many, symbolizes legalized slavery?
Republican city councilman Andy Naquin of Lafayette, La., is attempting to pass a ban on the Rainbow Flag, which is most commonly associated with support for the LGBTQ community, from being flown outside of public buildings in Louisiana. Naquin claims he began drafting the ordinance, limiting the types of flags that can be flown on government property, after receiving complaints from constituents about rainbow colored flags being flown during Pride week last month. “Government flagpoles really should be meant to fly only government flags,” Mr. Naquin told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser.
In response, Amanda Kelley, president of the LGBT advocacy group Acadiana Outspoken Alliance told the Advertiser, ”that, to me, seems like a violation of freedom of speech. [The flag] wasn’t intended to insult or hurt anyone.” This poses some interesting questions. I’ve seen Confederate Flags flown all over the South. It can even be found today in Mississippi’s state flag, which children salute in schools. Why is that ok? Why is one flag more acceptable than another? It’s helpful to look at the history of each.
The use of rainbow flags has a long tradition. They are displayed in many cultures around the world as a sign of diversity and inclusiveness. It represented hope and yearning during the South American Pre-Columbian movements and America during the Cooperative Movement of the 20’s. The most widely known worldwide use of the Rainbow Flag is representing Gay Pride. The world’s best-known version of the rainbow flag, sometimes called ‘the freedom flag’, was popularized as a symbol of Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning pride and diversity by San Franciscan Artist Gil Baker in 1978. The flag consists of six colored stripes and is most commonly flown with the red stripe on top, as the colors appear in a natural rainbow. Aside from the obvious symbolism of a mixed LGBTQ community, the colors were designed to symbolize: red (life), orange (healing), yellow (sunlight), green (nature), blue (harmony), and purple/violet (spirit).
The Confederate battle flag, on the other hand, called the “Southern Cross” or the cross of St. Andrew, has been described variously as a proud emblem of Southern heritage and as a shameful reminder of slavery and segregation. In the 1950s, defiant Southern legislatures and governors dredged up the flag (used by the Confederate army in their war of secession, where they were, among other things, protecting their right to own black slaves) and adopted variations of it in their state flags as a blatant, open rebellion against court ordered integration in schools and public facilities.
The Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups have also appropriated the Confederate battle flag. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 extremist groups use the Southern Cross as one of their symbols. St. Andrews Cross still flies on the South Carolina Capitol grounds and Mississippi still has the Confederate flag as part of its state flag. It is the last state to use the symbol after Georgia begrudgingly removed it.
On one hand, you have a symbol of hate and segregation and on the other a symbol of love and acceptance. So my question to that point is how can South Carolina or Mississippi have the civil liberty to justify flying a symbol of hate and oppression to many of its own citizens black and white in perpetuity but Louisiana not the same concern for the free speech rights of the LGBTQ community to display the Pride Flag for a single week in June?
Is the motivation for this flag legislation the beginning of conservative push back against the recent Supreme Court Decisions on DOMA? In one decision, the court invalidated a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that has prevented married gay couples from receiving benefits generally available to married people. In another decision, the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage. This is only the latest of a growing trend by States and contrary to the U.S. Constitution, to infringe on the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of certain members of their constituency.
I see a disturbing pattern of primarily Conservative State legislators conveniently restricting civil liberties of certain groups over others. Primary examples include Texas and South Carolinas Draconian laws for Women’s health clinics with the sole intent to limit many working class and poor women’s access to healthcare and legal, safe abortions.
In light of the weakening of the Voting Rights Act by the recent Supreme Court ruling, all nine states currently under scrutiny are hurriedly redrawing district maps and drafting laws to require or limit the types of identification voters are required to show. Gerrymandering districts to improve the turnouts for one party over the others. Gerrymandering removes or closes well known voting places often without proper notification in predominantly minority districts. Ironically, these old tactics to suppress minority voters were precisely why those states were under the enhanced scrutiny of the Voting Rights Act originally.
In my opinion, unfairly targeting LGBT, Female and Minority voters flies in the face of the one flag that all Americans (regardless of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion or lack of faith) have some stake in preserving: Old Glory. Flags historically symbolized shared beliefs and common cause, and all Americans should be concerned about what is being done recently in our names and in our Statehouses.
Photo: AP File