#2 The Confederate Flag and Modern-Day Implications

All you have to do is drive through my town and you’ll probably see it somewhere-the confederate flag. It’s a curtain for front doors, it’s on baseball caps and pocket knives and it flies from the back of pickup trucks.  It’s something that is just so very much there that we begin to normalize it. We forget to step back and remember what it symbolizes.  People label it “southern pride,” but what place does southern pride have in northern Vermont?  In history, it’s acted as a symbol of hate and discrimination, racism and cultural divides, but so many people have yet to internalize this symbolism.

I have classmates-friends, even, who don’t acknowledge or understand the meaning and racist hate behind the confederate flag. It’s tacked to their walls, alongside Polaroid photos and fairy lights and collages.  They wear it on their shirts. To them, it’s just another cool symbol. People don’t understand that it’s a symbol of hate, and part of the reason for this is that we don’t have much diversity around us.

I live near the Vermont Studio Center, where my dad works.  It’s a nonprofit that hosts artists and writers from all around the world who stay as residents for 2 weeks to 2 months. This adds diversity to our town, but it also adds conflict.  While the citizens of our town-prevalently Caucasian-don’t usually feel targeted by the use of the confederate flag, the visiting artists and writers do. Seeing the flag flying from the back of a truck makes some of them feel afraid and unwelcome.

A big part of the problem, I think, as I said before, is that people don’t understand the underlying hate that comes with the confederate flag. We’re removed from it because we don’t experience much diversity here in northern Vermont.  It doesn’t mean it’s not hurting anyone. In truth, it’s further fracturing our communities and ostracizing people.

Brainstorm Questions:

-what does the confederate flag symbolize to the people using it?

-do people understand the hateful backstory of the flag?

-what can help people understand the symbolism behind the confederate flag?

-what do schools teach students about it?

Adelle MacDowell

5 Responses to “#2 The Confederate Flag and Modern-Day Implications

  • Adelle,
    This is a very interesting topic that is a problem in our state but I feel as if it’s not talked about a lot so go you for pursuing it. I too am interested in the question you asked about what it symbolizes to people using it because I actually don’t know either. It would be cool is you had a chance to sometime talk to people who use it and ask there opinions, maybe they have some interesting outlook on it. I also wondering if maybe they don’t even know what they are really portraying, if they don’t I agree we need to advertise the true meaning more. I really don’t know anything about this topic and was never taught so a huge benefit to society would be if people were taught about important issues like this and then maybe they could understand better.

  • Adelle,

    Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post. It’s really interesting to hear about your experiences as well as those of the artists. I also think you came up with some great questions, especially the first question about the meaning of the flag to those who fly it in Vermont. A related question I have is whether there are regions of Vermont where one is more likely to see the flag? I also wonder about policies around the Confederate flag. Do schools ban clothing with the flag in the same way they ban clothing with drug or alcohol references? I believe the local agricultural fair in Addison County banned vendors from selling items with the Confederate flag. I also wonder if other fairs have done the same.

    This is an interesting topic to further explore and I hope for this week’s blog post you’ve had some interesting conversations.


    • I’m not sure whether the school has banned images of the flag, I certainly see it displayed on the clothing of my classmates and they seemingly face no repercussions. At Lamoille Valle Field Days this summer, I saw a staggering amount of merchandise displaying the confederate flag-from baseball caps to t-shirts to pocketknives and even the flag itself.

  • Adelle,

    My apologies for not reading this post sooner! Once again, it was very thoughtfully written. I especially like how you noticed the divide between the mostly Caucasian residents of your town and the more diverse visiting artists. In Middlebury, where I live, I see a similar divide, between the mostly Caucasian residents of the town and the surrounding towns and Middlebury College students, and professors, for that matter, who are some of the only non-white adults I know in my town. I wonder if Midd College students have noticed the use of the flag around town, in such places as the back of pickup trucks, and how they feel about it.

    One thing I’ll note: a WtS group last year also did their project on the Confederate Flag and its use in Vermont. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pursue it, too–it’s an important topic and one worth revisiting–but in your position, I would first watch their documentary to see how they approached the subject, and then find a different perspective you would like to explore the subject from, and/or build off of what they’ve already done. It’s so important with activism to acknowledge other peoples’ work and build on it, rather than to reinvent the wheel!


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