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tompritchett
03-22-2008, 04:48 AM
Interesting story about the Confederate flag becoming an issue at one high school in Cumberland MD. IMHO, I think that the full article does hit on both sides of the issue although it starts off on its use by some in the school in association with other racial intimidation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/21/AR2008032103226.html?wpisrc=newsletter


Flying in the Face of Controversy
In Md. Town, Confederate Flag Is a Symbol of Pride for Some, Terror for Others

By Mary Otto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 22, 2008; B01



CUMBERLAND, Md. -- This city nestled in the gray hills of Western Maryland was once a key railroad hub for the Union Army, beset by Confederate raiders. Today, the rebel flag is again stirring trouble.

A high school principal's recent decision to ban wearing or displaying the Confederate flag, adopted by some white residents as a symbol of their history, has inflamed an already tense debate over racial sensitivity and freedom of speech.

Deana Bryant allowed her 16-year-old son to wear a shirt emblazoned with the flag to school one day last week in open defiance of the ban. Speaking from behind the grocery counter where she works, Bryant said the flag is not about racism.

"It's his heritage," she said, her blue eyes flashing.

The same day, Lakeal Ellis, a nurse, kept her three daughters home from Fort Hill High School. Shaken by the escalating tension, they packed their clothes. The African American family came here a little more than a year ago from the District hoping to find better schools and a quieter life.

The girls were getting good grades at the high school. But after enduring racial slurs and harassment, sometimes at the hands of youths with Confederate flags, the Ellis family decided to give up and return to the District.

"Everything is over with Cumberland," Ellis said. "It's not okay for my kids."

At Fort Hill, the racial taunts had been going on throughout the school year, but the problems boiled over after a boy made racist remarks to one of Ellis's daughters in the cafeteria line this month, she said. Her daughter and the boy were suspended after an argument. In response, some students started displaying the flag on their clothes and trucks in solidarity with the boy.

The principal banned the display of the flag, but tensions continued to rise. Police stepped up their presence.

"The flag turned into a weapon," said Allegany County Superintendent Bill AuMiller, who met last week with parents and students who supported wearing the flag.

"They have a First Amendment right to wear it," AuMiller said, but using it to harass and intimidate students "crossed the line." He has asked students who display the flag "to voluntarily refrain until things cool down."

At a time when Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democratic candidate for president, has challenged the nation to transcend racial divides, the dispute at Fort Hill High School, named for a small fortification occupied by the Union Army, harks back to the past.

Flag fans often speak of their banner as a reminder of local history, a symbol of rebellion against authority and political correctness, and pride in their rural lifestyle. But one man's symbol of pride is another man's symbol of terror, said Charles Woods, a African American leader in Cumberland.

"You talk about that flag, the ugly side of people will rear its head up," he said. "That flag must be removed from school property."

Carl O. Snowden, civil rights director for the state attorney general's office, has received a complaint from the state and local NAACP and the Ellis family. He said he is closely monitoring the situation in Allegany County.

In January, members of several black and white congregations gathered at Cumberland's First Presbyterian Church for a service to commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The event was warmly received, said John Dillon, First Presbyterian's pastor. Dillon said he believes that racial divisions persist in the wider community.

"I think the vast majority of racism grows in ignorance, fear and poverty," he said. "We've got ignorance, fear and poverty in this community."

In many ways, this isolated spot is more a part of Appalachia than the rest of Maryland. President Lyndon B. Johnson acknowledged as much with a visit to Fort Hill High School in 1964, during a War on Poverty tour.

He spoke of job creation in a place where about one-quarter of residents were living in poverty. About a third of working men had solid jobs in area glass, rubber and textile plants. Since the factories closed in the 1980s, educational and health-care facilities and sprawling state and federal prison complexes have become major employers.

Efforts to draw tourists to local cultural and historic sites have been progressing, but change has been slow in coming.

After Ellis's daughters spoke publicly about their problems at a school board meeting last week, she kept them home from school the next day, worried about their safety.

That day, the girls said, they saw two men, one with a shaved head, in front of their house taking pictures.

They called the police and their mother at work.

She told them to gather their belongings, that they were leaving. The men taking pictures, Ellis said, were "the straw that broke the camel's back."

She contacted Norma Blacke Bourdeau, president of the local NAACP, and the Rev. Alfred Deas Jr. of Cumberland's historic Metropolitan AME Church and told them of her decision.

The girls' great-aunt swiftly packed their clothes, and Deas sent a church van to whisk them to the basement of the old church, built by freed slaves in the 19th century.

The move was done with cellphones instead of colorful quilts hung on clotheslines to mark the way to freedom. Blacke Bourdeau acknowledged the scene was reminiscent of the underground railroad, the nervous family, quietly and swiftly leaving town with the help of a network of volunteers.

"We're still living the history, which is why people are so ready to say 'No more, no more, no more,' " Blacke Bourdeau said.

Police said they were not able to substantiate whether the men outside the Ellis home posed a credible threat. The behavior of the men "was suspicious," Snowden said.

Ellis said she and her children are resettling in the District and trying to determine how to proceed with their lives.

But the troubles in Allegany, which is more than 90 percent white, reveal deeper divisions that must be addressed, Snowden said.

"This is a time when leadership is very important," he said.

AuMiller said the school system will hold sensitivity training and cultural-awareness programs for middle and high schools.

Deas said he and other church leaders are also pressing for a community-wide dialogue.

"We have no reason to believe it's not going forward," he said.

For some, the feelings only seem to be hardening.

Brandon Weir, 17, a masonry student at the county career and technical high school, said he was ordered earlier this month by school officials to remove a Confederate flag from his truck.

"They said I was making the school look bad," Weir said.

That evening, in front of their home, his father, Keith, helped him put back the Confederate flag, which he flies from the truck along with large American and prisoner-of-war flags.

Keith Weir said that he has raised his children to respect all people but that he is not going to be persuaded by public officials to remove the flag.

"Get her up there, buddy," the elder Weir said. "My flag is gonna fly."

firstmdes
03-22-2008, 09:26 AM
Tom,

I agree with you that both sides of the issue have been reported in the article. That is something that is not always done. However, I am not convinced by the weak response that the supporters of the flag are flying or wearing it for heritage and history. Yes, there were some students already displaying the flag, but the following line from the article convinces me that the majority of those wearing/flying the Confederate flag now are doing so for hate:


In response, some students started displaying the flag on their clothes and trucks in solidarity with the boy.

If the flag was brought out in "response" to the black/white argument and is being done to show "solidarity with the [white] boy", then the flag is being used for hate! Period! End of discussion!

I am all for freedom of speech and remembering your ancesters, but let's do it in a tasteful manner that does not intimidate others or violate their rights!

sambuster
03-24-2008, 03:29 AM
Iíve been a resident of Cumberland Md all my life. In those 45 years Iíve seen our community change a lot. I graduated from Fort Hill and both of my children will also. This episode isnít a case of Southern pride, itís a case of a few misguided youth. In many ways both parties are to blame. One for using a symbol in an attempt to intimidate others, and frankly the other side over reacting. Making thinks worse, and encouraging further bad behavior. Education is the key, and itís not just the schools problem. The parents have to do their part. I think history will be the big loser in all of this.
Steve Wagner
3rd MD CoB

bob 125th nysvi
03-30-2008, 06:07 AM
With the support of parents saying "My kid didn't say that" or actually accepting that it was OK for their kids to do that.

My mother was pretty liberal in regards to what we wore, if I had EVER used a racial slur towards somebody and my mother even vaguely thought it was related to me wearing a particular flag, being suspended form school and losing the offending garment would have been the LEAST of my woriries.

If supporters of the flag want to prove their case it's about 'heritage' and not 'racisim' then THEY have to step up and be the first to slap the offenders. Nowhere do I see the local historical society, SCVs lodge or reenacting unit stepping up to slap those who confuse 'heritage' with racism.

I'd buy the "heritage" argument more if some people who claim to represent the good the flag represents steps up and publically squashs these bugs.

"Kids will be kids" doesn't cut it in this case. Too much bad history to certain people. And the fact that the flag HAS been hijacked as a symbol of racial hatedred doesn't help.

Principle should throw the little buggers out and then let's see what the parents think of having to pay for a private school to keep the kids up or the kids think of having to redo the grade over next year when mommy/daddy can't or won't put their money where the 'heritage' mouth is.

firstmdes
03-30-2008, 08:43 AM
If supporters of the flag want to prove their case it's about 'heritage' and not 'racisim' then THEY have to step up and be the first to slap the offenders. Nowhere do I see the local historical society, SCVs lodge or reenacting unit stepping up to slap those who confuse 'heritage' with racism.

I'd buy the "heritage" argument more if some people who claim to represent the good the flag represents steps up and publically squashs these bugs.

"Kids will be kids" doesn't cut it in this case. Too much bad history to certain people. And the fact that the flag HAS been hijacked as a symbol of racial hatedred doesn't help.
Well put! I could not have said it better myself! If you look above, I even tried! :D