A Black Alabama high school student said that no matter how much she loves cheerleading, she won’t sacrifice what she believes is right in order to do it.
Reagan Coleman, who attends Daphne High School in Daphne, Alabama, was one of two Black girls on the cheer squad. That was before she quit after seeing a photo of six of her white teammates holding up a shirt that had a Confederate flag in the shape of a heart on it. The shirt also had the words “I love Redneck Boys” beneath the image.
The picture was posted to Instagram by one of the girls on July 4, then taken down after backlash grew. Reagan said that two weeks after the post was shared, everyone showed up to the first day of practice as if it never existed. She quit the team on that same day.
“No matter how much I love something, no matter how passionate I am about something, I love myself more and I respect myself more and I could not be on that team,” Reagan told Alabama’s WKRG News 5.
Reagan’s mother Latitah Coleman said that she notified school staff about the post, but the girls weren’t disciplined, which she finds ridiculous.
“I went from the coach to the principal, from the principal to the superintendent,” she explained. “And I kept getting vague answers. It was almost like everybody was reading a script.”
Latitah continued. “There’s no two sides to that flag. That means hatred, that’s what it stands for us. We were oppressed with that flag. They used it when they burned crosses in our ancestors’ yards. When it was railed around on horses. I don’t know what history you’re reading, but if you read the U.S. history, it tells you exactly what that flag stands for and what it means, especially to African-Americans.”
A petition to have the girls taken off the team was created on Change.org, and as of Friday, Aug. 7, it had over 2,600 signatures.
“I feel like we’re at a time where Black voices are being heard. We’re being felt, we’re being seen. So I knew this couldn’t go unheard about,” Reagan explained. “I knew I needed to share this story not for me or how I felt about the picture, but because of the other Black children that may be silenced by white administrations like these.”
Baldwin County Public Schools has already released a statement about the Instagram post and said it will let Daphne High School administrators decide what to do.
“As with any student issue, federal law prohibits us from discussing disciplinary actions, if any, involving our students,” read a statement. “Our system has implemented sensitivity programs and Superintendent [Eddie] Tyler has stressed that we have a zero tolerance for racism and bullying in our system.”
Regan said there have been other times where she witnessed racism at the school since a cheerleader was seen using the N-word on an Instagram video once. There was also a Snapchat message that surfaced in the past that showed a cheerleader calling a fellow student the N-word.
Variations of the modern-day Confederate flag were first flown in the Civil War as battle flags for the various Confederate armies, and the version commonly seen today and displayed as symbol of ”Southern pride” — nostalgia for the antebellum South — was never actually used during the war.
Many Black people and others, on the other hand, see the flag as a symbol of hate and treason, a sentiment that has only grown since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day increased the calls to address systemic racism.