If I remember my sixth-grade history correctly, there were only ten states in the Confederacy. Wisconsin was not among them. In fact, anecdotally speaking, I find that outside the South, the areas with the biggest affinities for the Confederate flag are those with the whitest populations.
Elcho, Wisconsin is no exception.
That’s the unfortunate truth that Samantha Denamur learned at Elcho High School, where she photographed another student in a hallway wearing a sweatshirt covered in the stars and bars of the slave-owning South. She took that photo to the school principal to complain, since the Confederate flag has become essentially a hate symbol.
How does that happen, you might wonder. How does a flag or symbol become emblematic of discord and hate? Well, one way is to intend it in the first place. One of the main proponents of the Confederate flag that flies over the capitol in Alabama, for example, intended for it to represent the superiority of the white race.
But another way is for the bearer of a symbol to be informed that it is offensive, and then rather than stopping the use of it, they double down in order to exercise their freedom of speech. And that is precisely what’s happened with the Confederate flag. In so vociferously defending its display after having been told how hurtful the symbolism is, those who fly it now prove their intent is to offend. Knowing this part will come in handy in a minute.
Samantha had this in mind when she snapped the photo; the principal likely did not when he brushed her aside, telling her he would “look into” whether it violated the school’s dress code.
Samantha was accosted at school by other students who demanded to know why she was offended. Winding up together in the principal’s office, Samantha and two other teens she had previously thought were friends ended up in a “discussion” over the matter Wednesday morning.
By the end of the day, the sweatshirt in question was gone, presumably folded in the student’s locker. But the photo she took had already made its way around the school. Privately, Samantha got messages of thanks from some students who were afraid to speak up themselves.
But by the time the WSAW News vans showed up at the school, it was those who intend to offend who had the last word: As Samantha was being interviewed by the station, a motorcade of trucks flying the Confederate flag circled them in the parking lot of the high school, shouting at Samantha, her mother, and even the black reporter conducting the interview.
Watch the video here:
Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images