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High School Students’ Protest over Confederate Flag Ban Shows Racial Issues Still Persist in Next Generation

 Christianburg high school students bearing American and Confederate flags gather after being suspended from school on Thursday. {Matt Gentry/AP}

Christianburg high school students bearing American and Confederate flags gather after being suspended from school on Thursday.
{Matt Gentry/AP)

The younger generation is supposed to be more open minded about race, but a group of Virginia students feel so strongly about wearing the Confederate flag, they are willing to miss school over it.

Several media outlets are reporting that more than 20 high school students at Christianburg High School in southwest Virginia have been suspended from school for failing to adhere to a ban on clothing or emblems bearing the rebel flag.

Brenda Drake, a spokesperson for Montgomery County public schools, said the school had decided to ban all Confederate regalia from student clothing and vehicles in 2002 after a year of racial incidents. Allegedly, students had gotten into fights over other students wearing pro-Confederate clothing. About 8 percent of students at Christianburg High School are Black, 83 percent of the students are white.

“It was an entire school year of significant racial tension,” Drake told The Washington Post. “I think certainly we value First Amendment rights, but we have to maintain an orderly and safe environment for all students.”

The students, who took part in a peaceful rally Thursday, insists they were protesting the school’s dress code. Zach Comer, one of the students involved in the protest, said he feels the ban unfairly targets them.

“We’re not trying to go into school and raise Cain or anything,” Comer said. “We’re doing it to raise a point that the flag is not racist. Everyone else can wear whatever shirts they want but we’re not. We just said ‘It’s time to put a stop to it.’”

Sophomore Dalton Reedy told The Washington Post wearing the Stars and Bars is a symbol of Southern pride. Reedy is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and claims his ancestors fought at the first Battle of Bull Run.

“Most people look at me like I’m a racist. What I really find offensive is we have a Black student awareness club but we don’t have a Mexican awareness or Russian or white club,” Reedy said.

Although some people claim the rebel flag is a symbol of Southern pride it has been adopted by white supremacist groups in America and abroad. It was also featured prominently by Dylann Roof, the white supremacist who allegedly shot nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina. The Civil War was fought over slavery and even William T. Thompson, the creator of the Confederate flag, said it represented the sovereignty of the white man over Black people.

“As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause. Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as the white man’s flag,” said Thompson in The Savannah Daily Morning News.

Chet Morley, a former Christianburg High School student now attending the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass., said he remembered seeing classmates wearing Confederate flag logos. Sometimes they were disciplined by teachers, but other teachers overlooked it.

Morley said although his former classmates claim the Stars and Bars represents Southern pride, it reminded him of slavery. Morley’s stepfather is descended from slaves and his father’s family from the Bahamas probably has slave roots.

“Southern pride is just a little cover up, if you ask me,” Morley told The Washington Post. “As for me and my ancestors, it means more than that.”

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